Monday, February 29, 2016

The Monkey Decade Plus Three Update: #2

Getting closer
Okay, so now this is starting to look like a bicycle again. Now things are getting down to brass tacks. Some tidbits and the brakes will be the finishing touches.

Brakes: I got the studs put in, but I am finding out that there are brake studs, and there are brake studs. The XT "V" brakes I wanted to use won't work because the studs I am finding have stand-offs that put the brake too far away from the spring retainer. So, I either have to search for different studs, or use different brakes. I have discovered that a set of "ceesy" linear pull brakes do work. So, there is hope that I will ave brakes, just not the ones I thought I'd have.

Tidbits: Then there are the odd ball pieces. Things like the right cog spacers for the single Boone Titanium cog that I am using. I need that to align the chain line just right. Then I am going to have to get a Surly Tuggnut for the quick release axle to keep it in place. I still may end up getting a set of long pull brake levers, which I see I have only one of at the moment. Gotta have a pair of those!

But beyond that, I am really close to putting the old Karate Monkey back on the gravel roads.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dirty Metric #1

Starting out at 30°F with heavy frost on the ground. The temperature rose 34°F during my ride!
Maybe some of you know that I joined The Cup O Dirt Challenge this year. Well, I either have to get in 12 metric centuries or six "real" ones. I figured on starting out by trying the metric ones, but I got shut out in January, and February was about shot. In comes the good weather, and so I decided that Saturday was my day. Do or die, because I wasn't going to get a second chance in February. I got everything lined up Friday night, and I went to bed early, (for me 10:00 pm is early!), and the alarm was set for six in the morning.

I knew going into this that I was going to see a wide swing in temperatures. It was 30°F when I left at 7:00am and I was expecting that I might see 60°F before I got home. Dressing, or maybe more accurately, undressing, for this as the day went on was going to be interesting. I also had to balance being able to carry enough water and food with having a place to stash things as I peeled them off.

Here's a list of what I was wearing when I left the house:
  • Bontrager sleeveless base layer.
  • Louis Garneau bib shorts
  • Pirate Cycling League "black" jersey from 2014
  • "Frostbike" branded wool DeFeet arm warmers.
  • Bontrager Thermal tights
  • Bontrager wind shell 
  • DeFeet wool socks
  • "Mart bag" vapor barriers on the feet.
  • Polypro beanie
  • Wool glove liners with Bontrager heavy Lycra full finger Winter gloves. 
  • Shimano three strap shoes. 
  • Gargoyle sunglasses
  • Bell helmet.

Headed South on Aker Road. It was darn chilly, but the Sun was bright and the winds were light.
I wanted to get an early start since the weather guys were predicting stronger winds as the day wore on. The wind was a breeze when I left, and little more than noticeable, but as I got down the road, you could feel it pick up a bit in intensity. The plan was to hit a spot about half way to Traer and take a tiny break. I had to relieve myself, so a little before I really wanted to stop, I found an abandoned barn. It was a perfect place to stop.

A brief stop to have a nature break and eat a bit of gel. Then it was back at it!
I figured on going through two water bottles by Traer at about 25 miles in. I had five with me- Two in the Chaff Bags, two in the cages, and one stashed inside of my Tangle Bag. I had about ten gel packets with me, two peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and five dollars. Traer would be my only resupply point where I figured on refilling the two water bottles and maybe finding something to nibble on that was "real food' besides my sandwiches which were for later. I tried to eat and drink at regular intervals, and I tried to throttle back a bit on the riding, since I was heading into the wind. I seemed to be successful on all accounts seemingly, that is until I got closer to Traer. It was then I felt the "hunger monster" and knew I'd better eat something soon.

See that little cardboard box on the ledge above my handle bars? It's a little cherry pie! It was really good too. 
The stop in Traer came at about 9:45am and that was a bit of a surprise to me as I only stopped once and I thought I was going faster than that. However; the wind was a factor. Inside the convenience store I found a Scotcheroo and a cute little cherry pie in a tin inside a cardboard box. All for $2.88, which was pretty nice. The gal at the counter took forever to get off the phone since she was taking a food order from a customer that couldn't make up their mind. Yes- small town convenience stores have become village cafeterias. Many small town convenience stores provide this service and pizza delivery, or take away. Anyway, I stood there for ten minutes so this stop took way longer than I wanted it to.

Hike-a-bike. It's good for the soul.
South of Traer I wanted to travel just South of Highway 63 Westward, so I could get over to J Avenue and see if the bridge was back in. However; I ran into a messy Level B road which made me decide to go down another mile to 200th and then West. Okay, so far, so good. Then I saw another Level B. Rats! I was going to end up either going way out of my way, backtracking, or just hike-a-biking straight on through. I chose the last, and it was a slow going slog.

Maybe I should have packed snowshoes!
Thanks to Mike Johnson, who made this tool, I was back up and running in no time once I cleared the Level B road.
All along during the ride I could feel it getting a wee bit warmer, but it was still pretty chilly. That is until I finished hiking the Level B Road. It was like a switch had been flipped, and I ended up stashing my beanie, wind jacket, and both pairs of gloves. The walk on the muddy, snowy ditch ragged out my cheesy vapor barriers, so I removed them. I was fine without them afterward anyway.

The mud was dispatched from my bike and shoes by a simple little tool made from a shish-kabob skewer by Mike Johnson who showed it to me a couple of years ago. It works like a champ and is easily stowed in a bag. Thanks Mike! Once that task was done, my clothes stashed, and after a bit of water, I was off again. I decided to skip going to J Avenue when I ran into another muddy Level B. I just headed straight up K Avenue instead. I couldn't afford to spend the time hiking another B road on this day.

Ridge Road Northwest of Traer is an awesome piece of Iowa gravel. You should ride it too.
It wasn't long before I was going back North and East with the wind, which was getting darn right strong now out of the Southwest, and I was on my way back to Waterloo. I hit one of my favorite roads, Ridge Road, and had a guy on a motorcycle slow down to chat with me a bit. He was amazed when I told him I had ridden down from Waterloo where I live.
Rest stop on the corner of 155th and P.
I was getting really sore in my left shoulder on the way back. I bunged it up when I fell on the ice a month or so ago, and it really aches after getting jarred on gravel. I had some ibuprofen, fortunately, and that took the edge off, but it was a struggle until the medication took effect. I'll have to try lifting some mild weights and stretching to see if I can get that back into shape.

The wind really was pushing me hard, which was good. I was getting tired legs and I had 20 miles to go. I made the final rest stop at the corner of 115th and U Street to eat my last peanut butter and honey sandwich, then I flew back to Waterloo on the wings of the wind.

All in all it was a great day out on the bike, I felt really good, considering this was my longest ride since October, and everything went pretty much according to plan. I got back at 2:15pm, so it was a long day anyway. I have not fully accounted for the mileage yet, but I am pretty sure it was over 63 miles, (UPDATE- Total mileage was just at 70 miles), so I got my Cup O Dirt challenge started out right. Now I just need to keep it up.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 8

The Fisher Bikes Super Cal 29 FS which never made it to production
On the blog ten years ago I went back into a swing of talking about 29"er stuff. Single speeds, why no one else other than Fisher Bikes was pushing the envelope, and also I was probing the peculiar "69"er", or as John Castellano said of them at the time, "50-50 Bikes". They were said to be the "best of both worlds", (26" and 29"), but obviously, in the end they were neither.

The "best of both worlds" angle was trotted again a year later when 27.5 bikes were introduced. Well, as we have also found out, the 27.5" wheel ended up being a way to make 26 inch bikes obsolete and forcing a re-upping by those who liked smaller wheels to buy new bikes. Now we're seeing another thing that is going to do a similar thing to both 29"ers and 27.5"ers- No, not another wheel size, although you could blame this on the "plus" sized rubber that's abundant these days. The new nemesis of old bikes will be Boost technology, which is going to widen out the wheel spacing, and that will put all older bikes out to pasture within the next few years. Progress, or conspiracy. You choose.

I also featured a "sneak peek" of a new 29"er that was in development by Fisher Bikes. Remember, there were two 29"er sites at the time that barely anyone knew about, so bloggers like me got a few bones thrown their way back in the day. The Supercal 29 FS never made it to production, however, and we had to wait a year or so longer to see the HiFi line introduced, which actually looks similar to this proto, come to think of it.

Speaking of cycling sites, at the end of February 2006 I announced that I would be a contributing writer to "The Biking Hub" site, out of Canada, and a site that was quite well respected in down hill/gravity mtb scenes. It went defunct about a year later, but it was the catalyst that pushed me into becoming the writer and cycling persona I have become today, if I can be so bold as to suggest that I have any notoriety.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday News And Views

WTB says it is "Plus Road". Others say "Welcome to the party". (Image courtesy of WTB)
Road Plus?!!

Fat, 650B tires and steel frames have been a "thing" since the 1940's or so. In certain times, the style and availability of parts was almost non-existent, but it never went away, and builders and small, niche companies kept the flame going for years up until now. Compass Tires, Velo Orange, Kogswell, and Rawland, amongst others, have spurred on an inetrest in 650B road-ish rigs with fat, 42mm-50mm tires all these years, and now some upstart mtb company has the chutzpah to come around with a similar tire and say it is a new thing.

You can read all about that here, but I find that some of the reactions to the news are very predictable. On the one hand, we have all the rando freaks, bike nerds, and traditionalists saying that this isn't any big deal, but have a variation on "this isn't as cool as "X" brand", or on the other hand say, "welcome to the freak show". I also wonder about some of the reactions since it is a company like WTB and that there is a new marketing twist on the old theme now. It's almost as if some are feeling put out that their niche is now being "exploited" and revealed to the masses. I remember seeing similar reactions when Specialized and finally when Giant came out with 29"ers. Well, whatever the deal there is, I will say I was a bit surprised that WTB did this.

Will it catch on? Look.....WTB introduced the 27.5+ tire to the market and everyone laughed. WTB also introduced 29"er tires first back in 2009 and everybody laughed. Hmm......

Heller Bikes "Shagamaw" 27.5+ bike (Image pinched from Fitzgerald Bikes Facebook page)
The Bike The Teens Will Be Noted For

I had to work on a Diamondback Ascent the other day at the shop. I was explaining to a young co-worker, just out of college, that this was the bike style that defined mountain bikes in the 90's: A steel hard tail, 26" wheels, of course, rigid fork, low head tube, long seat post extension, and a relatively long, flat rise stem with really narrow "broom stick" handle bars. You could argue that the "oughts" were defined by the hard tail 29"er with everything new that the format brought. Now we're solidly into the "teens", and fast ending this decade. I feel that the defining bike of this decade is something like the new Heller Bikes Shagamaw. (Is that a city in Michigan that made sub-par 4 speed manual transmissions? Hmm....) Anyway, this bike features a slack head angle, long front/center dimension, a stubby stem, really wide bars, "plus" sized 27.5 wheels, and a Chinese "catalog" carbon fiber frame.

NOT a carbon Stache. (Pinched from Lamere's Facebook page)
27.5+ sized wheels are really taking off now, and the geometry the hard tails use these days is anything but XC racing. Nope- it's all about enduro/all mountain now, so the geo reflects that- Slack, long, stubby stemmed. The frame reflects the growing trend of "consumer direct purchase" type frames, which has spawned a cottage industry of small brands who have stepped in to broker deals on batches of frames and sell with prices that maybe are not as good as the direct from factory to consumer buys, but not too much higher, plus there is a company Stateside to deal with any issues. Heck, even industry giant QBP sat up and took notice, creating their own Heller Brand to basically do the same thing as the smaller brands have been doing.

So, where will the "standard" mountain bike end up growing next? Hard to say, but I never would have predicted we'd be looking at a bike like the Lamere or Heller back ten years ago. By the way, the Heller bike is brand new, and if you are going to Frostbike, you'll get to see it. I won't, as I am not going to be there, as I said yesterday. I'll be out riding my gravel bike since it will be the best day yet all year to do that.

Okay, so, if you are like me, and are itching to ride in decent weather, by all means, do so! CIRREM riding this weekend? Good luck! Going to NAHBS? Geek out! See ya later and keep the rubber side down!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Back To The Country

The worst of the Sergent Road Bike Trail. It's 95% clear
"Yep, I think it is time!" That's what I thought to myself when the City Inspector came early and left the house by 9:30am after inspecting our new boiler. I had plenty of time before my next scheduled task at 2:00pm to sneak in a gravel road ride, the first of the year for me.

I probably would have gone out on the gravel back when it was colder if the fat biking had not been so good for the past two months or so. I know that it isn't usually that good, so I just rode the packed in trails here as much as I possibly could to get my share in now. Next Winter may not be so kind. Besides, I probably needed a good respite from a high dosage of gravel for the better part of 10 months spanning right up to the end of 2015.

The recent warmer weather has killed off any thoughts of Winter time fat biking, and in fact, I have declared it to be Spring, no matter what the calendar says. The weather has turned, and I just feel like it is here to stay now. I wanted to get out on the gravel last weekend, but that just never worked itself out, so Wednesday was the day. I saddled up on the ol' BMC "Orange Crush" rig and set out Southward, since I figured the roads South of town would be in better condition than North.

The Sun made a brief but welcomed appearance. The wind never left!
The wind was whistling through the wires in many spots. Especially so right here.
I made my way down the Sergent Road bike path, which was mostly clear, but for a short stretch I ran into which was easily navigated. Then I hit the gravel on Aker Road South. It was fresh, but of a gauge that the County rarely uses. It was finer and dustier than usual down this way, which made the BMC loose and lateral traction wasn't very good. Still, it was navigable and I was making great headway despite the gravel.

Of course, I come to realize that I had a stiff wind at my back the entire time. No wonder it was so easy! I turned Eastward and the cross wind slowed me up by quite a lot. Okay......okay! Lower gear.....higher cadence. Grind! Riding the dingle speed fat bike in low range for a few weeks paid dividends on the ride. I was spinning like a champ. Better than usual for this time of year. Spin to win!

Riding in the cross wind was tough. Then after this road I turned North. Yeah.......that was harder.
Yeah.....spin to win. The North wind was at about 20-ish mph according to the weather, but I think it was higher out in the country. My spin was reduced to a semi-slow grind up the rollers coming back to town, but you know what? I was super happy just to be riding. The wind wasn't taking anything away from that at all.

I got back with a good bit of time to spare and as it turned out, the ride was a highlight of the day. The afternoon I could have done without, but that's why riding is important to me. It makes the not so great things in life not such a big deal anymore, and my mental state was far better off for having been out battling the wind than it would have been otherwise.

That was a start. Now I'm looking for more. Hopefully real soon here!


There will be no epic walks through Minneapolis this time
My apologies friends and colleagues. This is to inform you that for the first time in 14 years I will not be attending Frostbike in Bloomington, Minnesota.

A late Winter tradition for me, and a great run of attending and being crazy on several occasions. I'll have to break the string this year. The invitation on the media side wasn't there, and the shop just dropped the ball on getting us registered, so the event filled up, and there is no room at the inn for Guitar Ted this year.

Now probably 90% of you or more out there could probably give a rip, but I actually do have a few friends that I only get to see at Frostbike, thus the apology in advance, should they be wondering what the heck happened to me this year.

Last year, apparently, from what I heard anyway, there were a few folks wondering why I wasn't there while I was cashed out in a motel room because of my epic all night walk through a snowy Minneapolis. Well, there will be no epic walks this year that keep me from attending. No..... I wish that was the case, but it isn't and I won't be showing up even for one day, like I did last year.

So, in case you were wondering, you shouldn't be looking for me at Frostbike. I'll be out riding my bicycle instead......

Have fun if you are going, folks.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Project Wide Gravel Wheels

Well.......look at that, would ya?
Okay.......White Industries came through. I have the hubs in hand and now, as I am wont to do, I have instigated another "project". This one will be a wheel build to test my theory on wide rims for gravel.

Before I get into my hypothesis, let's take a look at these gorgeous black anodized goodies here, shall we? Of course, they are from White Industries and are their new disc hubs dubbed "XMR". What does that stand for? Who knows! I would say, "good looking", sleek", and light weight, but none of those terms start with "X" "M" or "R". White Industries says the hubs have a 6-4 titanium free hub body, a six bolt disc rotor interface, available swappable end caps for through axle compatibility, or as in my case, the standard traditional quick release caps which are included, and an 11 speed compatibility with backwards compatibility to 10 speed and 9 speed cassettes via an included spacer. Pretty swank looks, if I say so myself, with laser etched graphics, and an availability in a few different anodized hues to boot. I chose black so I can swap these wheels, when they are built, between multiple bikes if I so choose and they will look great in all of them. I must say that I was sorely tempted by the option of getting White Industries XMR hubs in luscious purple ano though!

These hubs came highly recommended to me, but of course, there are more things to a wheel than hubs. I also chose WTB's KOM i25 rims for this build, and here's where it gets interesting, as far as my theory goes here. First, you need to know that WTB KOM i25 rims are 25mm inside width, so they are pretty wide rims! Keep in mind that most road-ish, cyclo-cross rims run in the 17mm-19mm inner rim width territory. Yeah......these are wide rims!! Well, for 35-40mm tires, they are wide rims. And see......that's the thing, everybody is going wide and wider off road, so why not for gravel? I mean, a 30mm wide rim is considered XC-ish these days and 35-40mm inner rim widths are commonplace on trail bikes. Every road rim that is introduced gets wider as well. So, it only follows that gravel riders might be benefiting from the same ideas, right? Well, we will see......

KOM rims come in several widths and diameters, but I chose the biggest and widest!
I figure we can look at gravel road tires as "plus sized road tires", so wider rims make sense to me in that vein. My hope is that the wider KOM i25 will do for the 38mm-40mm tires I intend to use on them what the wider mtb rims and 27.5+ tires did for my "Fat Fargo". Those corpulent wheels transformed the Fat Fargo into a rough terrain eating machine. Maybe wider rims will help stabilize gravel tires and help them roll over loose, deep gravel at lowered pressures better than they do on more traditional width cyclo-cross or road rims, the likes of which I have been using. Maybe that will translate into a more comfortable, less fatiguing ride quality which will help me out on longer rides. That's the hope and what I intend on finding out.

So, stay tuned for a detailed wheel build post, then I'll pop on some bigger gravel going rubber and then these will be featured first on my Twin Six Standard Rando, but I fully expect to also use them on my Raleigh Tamland Two and my Gen I Fargo.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Small Parts Are Important

This was what happened a couple weeks ago.
You may remember a couple weeks ago how when I was running my Ti Muk home from work and the crank fell off because that little, seemingly insignificant pre-load cap fell off. Such a catastrophic issue due to such a small, cheap part.

Fortunately for me, I only had about a mile to go, and I didn't roach the splines on that crank arm, because I quit pedaling the instant I felt something weird. Many people don't do this and they pay the price. I see it on a semi-consistent basis at work. People "pedaling through" chain issues, derailleur issues, wheel issues, bottom bracket issues, and so on and so forth. All causing much more damage and financial distress than need be had they just stopped and observed what was going on. Trust me folks, if you have something going on with your bike- noises, weird feelings, or non-functioning components- pedaling more will not make it magically go away. Yep. I'm pretty sure I am right about this.

So, I am really glad I stopped pedaling when I did, because I saved myself from crashing, bodily injury, and probably from toasting the left crank arm splines which would have rendered the crank useless. But then again, I am a bicycle mechanic and I have a sensitivity to these issues that, perhaps, the ordinary human does not. Maybe.....but maybe not. Maybe many folks are just not paying attention. Whatever the reason.......

$6.99 of cure. 
Now that looks much, much better!
It was an easy fix, of course, but I really didn't want to ride the bike without that tiny, seemingly unimportant bit of threaded aluminum. I was missing that bike last week too, since it was really the best thing I had to ride for my commutes course. There still are some bad spots it will be good for out there yet. One particular nasty rut I created with the 1X1 will get "steamrolled" back into shape once I get the Ti Muk on that bit of grassy crossing. I can think of one other spot similarly rutted, but not as deep that this bike needs to help "smooth over".

In the end, the commute route will be fine, but the big fat tires will enhance and speed up the recovery process. I'm not really sure there is too much frost driven into the ground this season, since it seems to be boiling out in some places pretty quickly already. Maybe "slop season" won't last too very long this year. I know I will be happy if things straighten out and get on with being "Spring" sooner than later. My drive train bits on the Ti Muk are already on the sketchy side of worn, and replacement parts should be obtained and installed before I get on too much further with riding this beast.

Once I get past the slop season and begin to fund the upgrade on drive train bits, I am going to make a decision to do something with the 29"er wheels I have for this bike. Those wheels are laced with Stan's Flow rims, and to be perfectly honest, I am not a huge fan of those rims, as I have plenty of good tubeless ready rubber to choose from, and many of my tires are not compatible with Stan's bead seat diameter, which is optimized for folding bead, non-tubeless ready tires. So, I believe I am going to start looking into a wider, tubeless compatible rim to re-lace those wheels with. Then I may think long and hard about using the Ti Muk on a rougher gravel event like Odin's where the magic of titanium and the Body Float seat post will be most beneficial for my purposes. I know I had 29+ wheels for this bike once, and I wasn't very stoked on that set up, but 29"er wheels on this bike work really well.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Monkey Decade Plus Three: Update

It's not an Ogre! Just a really old Karate Monkey.
Here's an update on the 2003 Karate Monkey. Obviously, after the bottom bracket had been removed, I could get on with "going the other way" with it. Oh, by the way, that term- going the other way- that's a term I picked up from back when I worked on cars. My boss would ask me where I was on the job I might be working on at the time. If I was putting things back together, it was termed "going the other way". you know.

Anyway.....back to the story!

I decided to go with cantilever brakes. one problem though. I removed the original brake studs back in 2003 for a cleaner look, since I went disc brake at the time. That meant that the first order of business was finding some brake bosses. I grabbed two from an old mart bike frame I have sitting around. That left two more to get. Hmm......I think I have some at work. So, I got as far as getting the front end squared away with brakes, but the back is yet to be done.

Then I moved on to finding a crank set and bottom bracket for the KM. I didn't have to go far, as I had a TruVativ single speed specific crank set and an old GXP bottom bracket to go with that. The old bottom bracket was from a Raleigh XXIX+G rig I had back in about '07, I believe it was. Anyway, I had that bike going for a while but I ended up breaking it down and I think I gave the frame away in the end.  The point is, the bottom bracket survives, and that went into the Karate Monkey with no issues.

I need to come up with a good seat collar, which I am pretty sure I have at work. Then I grabbed a seat post that was originally in my Ti Mukluk and the Velo Orange saddle that I can't seem to find a home for. I guess I'll try that on this bike, since it is red, and the bar tape is red, and I have a few red themed stickers on the old bike. I figured it would match and all.

Different bottom bracket and crank set. Ready to roll there. Yes- it really is this dim in my shop!
So, that's it so far. I should get everything up and running real soon. When I do and get to riding it again, I'm sure that I'll end up tweaking things, so this all may not end up being the final build. However; it should be close, and I'll have that old Monkey back in the stable in running order for the first time in several years.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 7

Ten years ago this week on the blog I ran a series on endurance racing, which was a big deal to me then because of my then co-worker, Jeff Kerkove and our involvement with the newly minted Trans Iowa, which, as I have said on numerous occasions, was patterned partially after 24 hour solo endurance mountain bike events. I called the series "The Future Of Endurance Racing", and at that time, I never dreamed that the format would be as small as it is today. That said, in the series, I and others explored what we thought of the 24 hour racing scene then which I find has a lot of parallels to the gravel racing scene of today. In particular, the marketing and potential profiteering from the genre. Check out the following, written this week ten years ago.....

Could it be that many of you are remembering what happened in XC racing? Perhaps many of you just cannot believe that something so cool could last without somebody screwing it all up? I don't know for sure what exactly prompts this sort of reaction. I can say this; if there is money to be made, then the focus will come off of the ride and the riders, and it will instead be on the product. In other words, marketers will get a hold of this sport, legitimize it in the minds of the elite by imposing a governing body on it, and then tweak it so as to attract as many folks as possible to spend their money on it.
And this.....

 At least some of you out there have also commented that the smaller, grassroots events.....are events that you expect will survive. Well, as a promoter myself, I can say that it won't last because of the money! Most of these events are fueled by pure passion for the experience. Once that burns itself out, and inevitably it will, either some other passionate folks must pick up the batons, or these events will fade into history. Perhaps they will be replaced by other, more exciting, challenging, and nutty events, I don't know! All I can say is that I don't mean to sound like an alarmist, just a realist.
So, the first quoted paragraph is what many fear what will, and maybe is happening, to gravel racing. Maybe we are half way there, with only the "governing body" part missing at this stage of the game. Well, there are rumblings that the USA Cycling organization is trying to reach out to gravel event promoters and trying to get their foot in the door to sell insurance to these promoters. USA Cycling has also been reported to have had a dramatic drop in income to the tune of one million dollars. It doesn't take too much to make the leap that USA Cycling sees gravel rides as a source of new income, or a recovery of lost income, depending upon your viewpoint.

The second quoted paragraph is something I have seen happen already with gravel events.  The races and rides come and go depending upon the endurance of those behind the scenes to put the rides and races on. The Almanzo 100 and its related events being maybe the most prominent of those and perhaps the only one to change leadership and retain its far. Others have morphed from the grassroots, laid back atmosphere they began with to turn into massive, money making ventures that support livelihoods. While others have just grown beyond the capabilities of the founders to keep them free and have started morphing into more traditional looking events. The point is, just like I said ten years ago, passion takes you only so far, and many do not toe the line of their original visions for very long before they start seeing dollar signs. Maybe others find a way out of the event promoting/organizing game altogether.

Anyway, I found it interesting to see the similarities there.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday News And Views

From December 20th, 2015. Soon this will be happening again.
Changing Seasons- Changing Gears

Okay, look.....I know I've said I thought Winter was about shot already before, but this time! I mean, look at the temperatures. Going up near 50°F and staying above freezing for 48 hours or more with temperatures forecast to be in the upper 30's/low 40's for at least a week. Yeah.....It is time. 

I put the fat bike on standby yesterday and rode my Black Mountain Cycles bike to work. I don't know that I'll be commuting on a fat bike for quite some time now. The chatter locally is that the gravel roads should be firming up real soon, and the season is fixing to turn to Spring anytime now. Sure, we may have a three day blast of cold air here and there, or another snow, but Winter, I believe, is on the run now. It's time to switch over to gravel travel again.

The thing we tend to forget here is that it wasn't all that long ago that I was, at any rate, riding gravel roads. The image I posted for today is from five days before Christmas! It was the last big gravel ride I did before the snow flew just before Christmas, and then it got real cold and snowy, and well, you know! The point is, Winter, while pretty intense and great for fat biking, really wasn't that long of a season this time.

Now will go below zero and snow big time because I wrote this! That's okay. If it does, blame me. I can handle it..........

How long, you crazy Californians? How long.....
Still Waiting.....

Maybe you remember that I have been saying that I will be building up some new gravel wheels for my Twin Six Standard Rando. Well, I am going to do that, as soon as White Industries gets my hubs to me. There was an order placed, a phone call to find out what was going on two weeks ago, when we found out that the order was there, but not processed for some strange reason, and now......... Who knows? 

Maybe I'll finally end up getting something different, or maybe these things will finally show up. I only know that this has been dragging on for far too long and I am giving it another week and if nothing happens I have to move on. Sheesh! This process started in January, for cryin' out loud, and pretty soon it is going to be March and gravel riding will be happening. I need that Standard Rando up and 

I was kind of hoping to be piloting this rig for the Renegade Gents Race which happens on the first weekend of April, which, ya know, is just a hair over a month away. I'd like to have time to re-calibrate the bike to me after putting the rig on ice back in September last Fall.

Trans Iowa V12:

Oh, and then there is this other little deal I have going on toward the end of April called Trans Iowa. That's going to start ramping up in importance in my life really soon as well. So, here is the latest on that event I can share with you all....

Stickers for your bumper, your tool box, or your pile of other, forgotten memorabilia, are coming. They will be 4" tall by 8" long, so pretty good sized. Every rider that bothers to show up for the ride at the Pre-Race Meat-Up will get one in their swag bag. Volunteers will also get these, and a couple of special accessories to wear as well. Stay tuned on those......

After T.I.v12 I am going to have a "Trans Iowa Rummage Sale" where I am going to clear out the remaining t-shirts, hats, stickers, and maybe a few other oddments that seem to be piling up around here at Guitar Ted Laboratories. So, put that in your files for later. I'll post a full list of the items after Trans Iowa v12 is over!!

Finally: There have been a few drops that have been reported to me. Bummer, but I appreciate the notes since that means I won't be doing extra work for folks that won't be showing up for whatever reasons. Keep that in mind if you are in T.I.v12. If you cannot come, for whatever reason, please let me know as soon as possible. 

Thanks and have a great weekend. Think Spring!!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

WW4M: Planet Bike Grateful Red

Clever name- Bang for the buck
WW4M stands for "What Works For Me". This is a review of a product I found extremely useful, that lives up to its billing, and provides a good value. Your mileage may vary.

 The cycling world is full of red blinky devices that are designed to warn of your presence on bike paths, roads, and on trails whether it is dark or not. So, when another light hits the market, it gets a "ho-hum" response. I many different models of blinky tail lights do we really need? 

The red blinker market has some pretty heavy hitters that have the latest in LED emitters, high Lumen out put, and recharge via USB ports, since, ya know, everybody lives and rides near a computer, right? You'd think so anyway.

The Planet Bike company doesn't seem to think so, and felt that maybe not everybody would pony up for $25.00-$60.00 rear blinkies. So, they introduced the "Grateful Red" tail light. Planet Bike has always had some pretty decent rear blinkies all along, so I had big expectations for this cleverly named light. Here's the spew from their site:

  • PB power array™ and reflector provide visibility for up to 1 mile
  • Steady, Superflash™ and Courtesy™ flash modes
  • Ultra compact case is weatherproof, lightweight, and durable
  • Rear rack and seat post mounts included
  • Up to 150 hours of run time on 2 AAA batteries (included)
  • 85 grams 
Okay, so what are these three trademarked "modes" all about? Steady is self explanatory, and may seem useless, but here's something I've found that may make you think twice about that. I have found that at night, many times if I use a steady light, vehicles coming from behind give you a wider berth, because they don't know if you are a vehicle with a tail light out, a motorcycle, or a cyclist until they get closer to you. By then, they've committed to giving me more room. Try it out....

The Grateful Red comes with a nice mount, or you can clip it on a strap
The "Superflash" mode is a blinkie on meth, crazy pattern, that makes me go nuts just looking at it. Want to tick off your riding buddies? This is your mode. I'm not into it, but it may be just what you are looking for.

The "Courtesy Mode" is what I ended up using almost all the time. It is a mode that melds a steady light with an "on-off", slow, soft glowing that I found pleasant, and resulted in much more courteous passing by motorists during my Winter commutes. It was definitely a noticeable thing, as I found out if I left it off, the cars were passing me much closer, as usual without a light, than if I had the light on Courtesy Mode".

Okay, so what else? It's a replaceable battery powered light, isn't that a bad thing? I don't it? Get some rechargeable AAA's and go with that then. My take is that if the light goes dim or quits, I probably will not be around a computer, or I won't have time to sit and wait for however many minutes or hours that an LED light that recharges via USB would take to recharge. Batteries? A few minutes or less, swap out two batteries, done for another 150 hours of use. Sounds good to me. Plus, if you ride any all-nighters or do lots of long distance, "out there" type of stuff, packing two triple "A"'s isn't  a big deal, and you don't have to try to find a computer to recharge your "device light".

UPDATE: A friend gently reminded me about rechargeable power packs and that those could be used as a way to extend a USB rechargeable blinky's battery in a pinch. Okay, but that's really not much different than swapping batteries, only batteries work right away. Plus, batteries, and the Grateful Red light, cost a lot less. Still, that's a great point and a viable way to go.

My only quibble is that the clip, like so many LED blinky light clips, isn't very "clampy", and I ended up losing my Grateful Red just yesterday somewhere. The thing is, the MSRP is $19.99, so I'm not out a lot for replacing it.

And trust me, I am replacing this one. It's a good little blinky for not a lot of cabbage.

Planet Bike provided the Grateful Red used in this review at no charge. I was not paid nor bribed for this review, and I really am going to buy another one to replace the one I lost. So there!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Ice on the Cedar River
I don't often get into too much of my personal life on this blog. I am a bit private, maybe, but more than anything, I don't think it is stuff most folks want to, or need to know. That said, things do affect me and sometimes that leaks over to the blog here. The lines are not hard drawn or clearly defined in that regard.

Yesterday I took the long way home. I needed to get into my head, as there are a ton of things swirling around in there due to recent events. Now I know ya'all are wondering at this point what is happening. Well, my immediate family is all okay, but we've had to deal with processing a couple of big events that happened over the last week. We also have had a kind of an"emergency" here that required a big expenditure on the house. It has all been difficult, and I have been stressed out and confused emotionally. So, there. That's all I'm going to say about that here.

The point is that, well.....for me, at any rate, a bicycle ride is absolutely necessary to get myself cleared out in the head. To me, it is such a wonderful way to get things sorted out emotionally and mentally. Spiritually too. Let's not forget that.

So, anyway, I encourage you all to ride to make your world better, in whatever way that makes sense to you. For myself, I had to go the long way home, and it helped me sort some things out, and some things that didn't make sense, well...... Still processing.

Here are some images from my ride I took when I stopped to contemplate things.....

The Cedar froze when the water was high, then the levels dropped, creating this cool "ice fence". 
A view from the dike near Cattle Congress.
Perhaps my favorite image I've captured in a long, long time. 
Well, hope you all enjoyed the little trip I took. Hopefully I will be piling on some more milage today. I still have some things to sort out......

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Guitar Ted Lube Off: Wet Season Finale

Tri-Flow on the Ti Muk
Okay, I was going to post an update on the Lube Off a while back, but I held off to sneak in another late addition, so I put it off until now. With the imminent end of Winter at hand, and a transitional "slop season" coming, I figured I would put an end to "Wet Season" testing for now. There were some odd entries into this portion of testing, so let's go back and review what I had on chains here during Wet Season.

  • Tri Flow
  • DuMonde Tech
  • WD-40
  • Grease over Tri-Flow
  • Smooth Operator Lube
Okay, so with wet season I don't ever really expect a lube that is effective to be "clean". If the chain is dry, it usually ends up getting corroded and squeaky real fast. If it is clean, it is weird, and generally, not a good thing. Snow, slush, rain, and cold do weird things to chains, not to mention the chemical deicers they use on roads these days.  Conversely I don't like to see a wet, grimy chain flinging crap all over the bike either. That's generally a lube that's not only causing you more clean up time, but one that is attracting stuff you'd rather not have on your chain. No- something in between is best, in my opinion.

WD-40 was.......meh! 
WD-40: The funny thing about this was that it actually works, up until a point. I found that I had to re-apply almost daily to keep the chain wet/lubricated. I also found that my chain was almost never dirty or a mess. I'm not 100% comfortable with how it lubricates chains, if in fact it is at all. Especially since it seems to get dry almost every ride and I don't know exactly at what point that is happening. So, I decided it wasn't cutting the mustard. End result- Not a good lubricant for wet season. 

Older pic of the Tri-Flow with grease over it.
Tri-Flow & Tri-Flow with Grease:

Okay, first off, please reference the top image for plain Tri-Flow and the one to the left here for Tri-Flow with an application of grease over the top.

Tri-Flow- whether layered over with grease or not- seemed to react about as equally well in wet snow or in rain. It was dirtier than your dry weather lubes, but it wasn't throwing crap all over, (if applied correctly), and kept the chain wet and lubricated better than most. I saw times where it was gathering sand, for instance, and crunchy noises would sometimes result. I had to periodically clean the chain, because if I did not, the Tri-Flow would go dry and then create a gunky, sticky mess on side plates and on cogs and chain rings. I will note that the grease over Tri-Flow seemed to be a tad bit better in this regard, but I quit riding that bike when conditions started calling out for full on fat bikes, so I cannot give a 100% recommendation on that. There was something to it, as far as a technique for wet weather goes, so I may return to this at some point.

In the end, I give Tri-Flow a "Good" recommendation for wet weather. It has to be maintained at regular intervals or after a particularly wet, snowy ride, but it does clean up well and a reapplication is easy.

Smooth Operator Lube: A messy lube, but it is working.
Smooth Operator Lube: 

Going to this lube's website, you don't get a lot of clues as to "why" this lube works. No technical mumbo-jumbo, no "gee-whiz" marketing spiel, just that it works for wet or dry conditions. So......there ya go. Your guess is as good as mine as to why this should be better than anything else. Oh well......

When I applied it, it looked vaguely familiar, as it was sort of thick, almost "gooey" as it came out of the applicator, (which is fantastic, by the way). I recalled Finish Line "Wet" formula, or maybe like Phil Wood lube, or like most soybean based lubricants I've tried. Anyway, if you've used those, you know what I mean about the Smooth Operator's consistency. It spread really well, and coated everything easily. Everything near it as well!

That's the main complaint so far on this lube- it's messy. Check out the image above of my Blackborow DS's chain. You can see my chain stay on the left there is coated in Smooth Operator lube. Hmm........ maybe I don't need to use as much, eh? 

I have put it on my BMC's chain.....very sparingly, I might add, and we will see how that goes in my next update.

DuMonde Tech.....yeah, that's crazy. Still champ.
 DuMonde Tech:

Okay, so if you've been following this along over the past almost year or so, you know I am a big fan of DuMonde Tech. It has just outdone everything else I've tried, wet or dry. However; that's just me. What about someone else? Okay, so I gave this stuff to my co-worker Andy to put on his Pugs SS. He rides it all the time in Winter. We took a look after about a month and a half of use and the image you see here is what it looked like.


That's hard to beat, and with their claims of "plating the chain", I have to say that after seeing no corrosive effects or dirt sticking on it, I would have to say there is definitely something good going on with DuMonde Tech.

So, after a Wet Season of usage with all of these lubricants, DuMonde Tech is still getting my vote as the best out there. We haven't seen the full Smooth Operator Lube test done yet, so I'll hold off saying anything on that as far as a final word just now. We will continue to put others through their paces, so stay tuned as we get into warmer weather and Spring time conditions. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Introducing The Broad Street Growler

Okay, so now I'm going to bare all the secrets about this gravel event that I can for you today. It will be a bit different from many other events, and I hope that it all comes off well. We're going to start small, and try to keep the expectations in check, but anyway- here goes.....

The basics: What: The Broad Street Growler gravel road ride. The main word to remember is "fun" but there will be some challenge and room for a little friendly competition. Two courses- A "metric" and a "double metric. For you metrically challenged folk, that' 63 and 126 miles, or close to that. Expect beer, stuff, entertainment. More soon on all of that.....

Where: Broad Street Brewery will be the starting and ending point for both rides. Located in Reinbeck, Iowa, which is about 22 miles Southwest of Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Iowa, about 90 miles Northeast from Des Moines, Iowa, and about 75 miles Northwest from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The routes will both take in bits of Grundy and Tama Counties. There will be level B roads and some tough hills, but it won't be brutal. We promise!

When: The date is set as September 3rd, 2016, which is the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. Plenty of spare time to get here and to recover afterward, or go do other cool things that weekend on Sunday and Monday.

Why: Again, we were thinking about having a route out in the country that wasn't just about getting first place in your category, but more about having fun, camaraderie, and overcoming a bit of a challenge along the way. We thought a cold draught of beer might be good afterward, and maybe have a bit of music to enjoy as well.

How: To get in on the potential fun, we will have online registration. We expect to cap off the field at 150 and the registration fee should be about $50.00 which will get you an insured event, a marked course with timed segments, some swag, some surprises, and entertainment at the end of the route. Details for registration will be released later.

Fine Details: The element of competition will be handled by having a couple timed segments which we will set up via Strava. Sponsors include Broad Street Brewery, Origin8,, and Europa Cycle & Ski.

Stay tuned for updates and links....

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Monkey Decade: Plus Three

The operating table
The "Monkey Decade" was a series of posts I did back in 2013 concerning my Campstove Green Karate Monkey single speed. (The last update can be revisited here) The bike was purchased as a frame and fork by me in 2003, March I believe it was, and I rode it pretty religiously up till about 2007-2008 when other bikes and obligations kind of put that old critter on the back burner for quite a while. That series was a way for me to rekindle interest in the bike, and it did. There was one small detail that precluded me from getting back in the saddle with the project, as it were. That one thing was a very stuck bottom bracket that was in need of replacement.

Well, as I posted my Minus Ten Reviews, I was looking for an image, and found one of that old Karate Monkey in its heyday. (See yesterday's post) That pushed me over the edge, as I was not going to ride to work Friday in the sub-zero windchill, and I knew the repair schedule was pretty open. My boss at work is into challenges like stuck bottom brackets, so I knew he would be okay with me doing this in the dead of Winter. So, I hauled in that hulk of a Monkey and fastened it securely into my repair stand. The game was afoot!

There is one image of the process I did not get that I wished that I had. First, a bit of imagery description to help out here. I had purchased a large, 1 1/4" combination wrench which fit the Shimano bottom bracket tool quite nicely. That was all affixed to the non-drive side bottom bracket cup, (the drive side I managed to remove in 2015), and that big ol' wrench was hanging out there quite a ways. More leverage than I thought one may need. I braced myself, grabbed the frame in one hand and the heavy lead mallet with the other, and smacked away as hard as I could. That didn't work, so Andy stepped in to lend a hand, but to no avail.

By now my boss had come out and he decided that three of us could do the job. Two folks bracing the frame, me whacking the wrench with the lead mallet.


My boss stood back and said, "Where is the fork straightener?" I knew exactly what he was on about.

The fork straightener comes from a less litigious, a less carbonated time, when forks were steel and people were willing to take the risk that a mechanic's bending a fork back in plane was an okay thing to do. Nowadays it's main usage is for cases that require extreme amounts of leverage. Times like this ......

Todd had wandered in about this time to see what all the fuss was about. Then he was employed into the process. Four grown men, heaving on a four foot long lever of steel on a 1 1/4" tool affixed to a splined interface. We were pulling so hard that the big combination wrench was deflecting about two inches. Finally, it moved! We all stood back in self-congratulatory stances, as only men can do after accomplishing manly tasks. Not that women couldn't have done it, but we men have a special air about us. I think everyone knows what I mean by that........

Anyway, it wasn't loose. We broke off the splined interface!!!

Yeah........that's just awesome. Now what?!!
 Okay, so now what? Well, there was no tool interface left anymore, so a destructive technique was all that was left to me, but how? I looked at the bottom bracket and knew that Shimano had assembled it in some way, but in what way? If I could reverse the process some how, I could maybe break it down to just the threaded part which was stuck in the frame. I began to pick at it with my sharp pick set tools. Eventually, a circlip came out, then a seal. I was making progress, so I was encouraged. I eventually pulled out the bearing cage and revealed the 1/4" ball bearings in their races. Hmm......hammer time! I grabbed a ball peen hammer and whacked the end of the spindle with a few sharp blows.

The BB-UN72 bottom bracket cartridge.
It came flying out of the frame like a missle, just barely missing a bike in the other stand! Whew! That would have sucked if I had hit it. But, I didn't, and now all I had to do was to remove a steel collar which was about an inch and a quarter wide and which was threaded into the bottom bracket shell.

Yeah.....that's all I had to do. 

There was only one way that was coming out. Remember, I had no tool interface, the piece was already missing a bit of its outer dimension which we had sheared off, and getting a chisel in that tiny space was almost impossible. I tried the chisel route, but it was not really very effective. I was going to have to hack saw that bugger out of there, and in doing that, not ruin the frame! We didn't have a jab saw, so I had to disassemble a standard hack saw, pass the blade through the bottom bracket shell, and then reattach the blade to the frame of the hacksaw. Tedious, but not impossible. Now, on to cutting!

I made three, very calculated, careful cuts. Two close together, and one roughly 90° from those two. Then I used a standard blade screw driver that I had sharpened a bit as a chisel to start to split the collar at the cuts I made, and then to drive the blade under the collar, hopefully prying up the smallest bit of the circumference of the collar first. It was a slow, tedious process, but I could see that the edges were working up. Finally, it snapped up off the bottom bracket shell! Then the two larger pieces came right out as well.

The two larger pieces of the collar show how rusted they were into the frame.

I got the bottom bracket out, and cleaned up the threads of the bottom bracket shell with the bottom bracket thread chaser. Whew!

That was close.

And it took entirely way too long to reach this result, but at least now I have a frame that I can rehabilitate and rebuild into a working bicycle once again. No more hang ups. Nothing to stop forward progress anymore.

Now what.....

You know, back in 2013 I thought maybe I would put the KM back into the (mostly) original configuration that I had it in back 2003. The thing is, that configuration was short lived, and I actually liked it best in the 2005-2008 time frame when I had a Midge drop bar, leather saddle, and a pretty stout gravel grinding gear set up on the bike. I got to thinking, well.........why not do that? 

New KM's are much more capable off road machines than my '03 is.
The old KM was good for its day, but the straight 1 1/8th head tube, non-gusseted frame, and antiquated rear drop out design make for a less than optimal off road bike now compared to the modern day KM which is a better Monkey all around for single speed activities on single track.

Plus, as I looked at the old, worn frame, it occurred to me that I might be able to use a specific, "old school" style wheel set I picked up from Mike, a Trans Iowa/Tour Divide veteran a few years back. It's an XTR hubbed, Salsa Delgado rim brake style wheel set which comes right out of the same time frame that the 2003 Karate Monkey does. You may remember also that '03 Monkeys could run cantilever brakes. Plus, the Shimano SLR levers I have on the bike should pull linear pull brakes well enough, and even if they don't, I have a pair of Tektro long pull levers sitting around that will.

I figure I'll set up a fresh pair of Bruce Gordon Rock and Road skinwalls on that, and my Velo Orange leather saddle. That along with a new handle bar, stem, and a TruVativ, outboard bearing single speed crankset, and Surly cog with a 9 speed chain driving it all, and I should be sitting pretty well and have a great single speed gravel travel rig.

So, no bike project is worth doing without a goal. This bike is being resurrected at the perfect time for me to reprise the first Guitar Ted Death Ride course. The Karate Monkey single speed was the bike I used on that first GTDRI, and as we're doing the same route, why not use the "same" bicycle?

All righty then......its on. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 6

Classic Year of the Monkey stuff here.
Ten years ago on the blog here I was having some fun with my local bloggers here. Yeah..... That was a long time ago! In many ways, it was kind of cool to see everyone blogging instead of posting memes on Facecrack like many do now. Blogs were/are a bit more considered, thoughtfully constructed, and more fun, in my opinion. They were/are a lot of work though, and the minute Facecrack made some in-roads, then blogging went by the wayside, I think. Anyway.....I digress. 

Local bloggers......yeah, okay! One of these was Carl, and on his blog he accused me as being a 29"er nutcase. All in good fun, of course. That was most likely in reference to a possibility of a Cannondale 29"er coming down the pike. I also was speculating on a 2007 release of a Specialized 29"er at the time. It seems rather odd now to think that hardly anyone was doing 29"ers, but there was a time when they were rare.

I was asked about my drop bar on my Karate Monkey, so I posted about that bike, which I still need to get the dang bottom bracket out of! One of these ol days, I will.

You'll see!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday News And Views

SRAM marketing strikes with a new 11 spd cassette that is aimed at 1X riders.
SRAM NX 1 X 11 Parts Announced:

If you've been paying attention for the last few years, you know that SRAM has been pushing its 1 X 11 gearing for mountain bikes quite heavily. I've used it, and it is a fascinating idea that ends up being "just okay", in my opinion. (More on that coming up here.) The biggest issue I, and many others have had, with this format is that (a), it requires a specific free hub body and (b), the cost is outrageous for the cassette. Mostly this is due to the outlandish, wasteful carving of a huge block of steel into a single, 10 cog unit, to which a final, aluminum cog is fitted to. The waste in the material and cost to machine the huge chunk of steel forces SRAM to charge exorbitant prices- anywhere from $260-ish to a bit over $400.00 depending upon where you purchase and what level X-Dome cassette you buy. Compare that to $160-ish for an XTR 11 speed cassette from the UK online dealers, and you can see why xx-1 is a bit of a big bite to chew for riders. That's just the cassette too. You still need a special derailleur, shifter, chain ring, and chain.

The obvious solution was for SRAM to find a way to make the 1 X 11 idea cheaper. They tried the GX platform, which still required an XD free hub, which was riveted together and consists of separately made cogs. However; the barrier of the special wheel was still there. Meanwhile, quietly and in typically sedate Shimano style, the Japanese component giant offered an 11 speed, wide ranging cassette that fit on a standard free hub body. Now, SRAM has announced a cassette which also fits on a standard free hub body dubbed "NX" in response. There actually is a whole suite of 1X parts to go with this. Differences to GX are minor, and the NX crank is almost identical to a GX 1X crank, only made with a different aluminum alloy. To wit: SRAM claims both crank sets weigh in the 680 gram range. Functionally they should be identical. The derailleur is a cheaper version of GX probably with lower level materials, as SRAM is wont to do with their groups.

Shimano's XT 11spd, 11-42 cassette- A SRAM 1X alternative
The big deal here is obviously the cassette, and the ability for OEM bikes to be set up 1X in the Far East, shipped here to North America, and hit a retail price point that should be far more palatable to more budget conscious riders. The NX stuff can arguably be said to be "X-5"-ish quality, which means that the materials and construct of the cassette and components will reflect the $75.00-ish dollar asking price for the cassette aftermarket.

But hold on here. SRAM, by ditching most of their proprietary technology like the XD cassette carrier, X-Dome cassette manufacturing technique, and lowering the materials and construction techniques to almost hybrid bike levels, have put themselves into a playing field where Shimano dominates. Check this out.....

A savvy shopper can source an XT 11 speed 11-42 cassette for under $75.00, which is going to have a far better shifting quality and construction than an NX 11 speed cassette will ever have. No.....I haven't seen an NX cassette, but I have seen and handled a GX cassette, and this NX cassette is one level below that. You have a Shimano cassette for about the same asking price as a lower quality SRAM one, and if you have a Shimano Shadow Plus clutch style rear derailleur, it probably can already handle a 42T cog. Want better shifting quality? The replaceable hangar on a Shadow Plus derailleur can be replaced with a Goat Link from Wolf Tooth components and bang on shifting is at your finger tips. While you're at it, you can grab one of Wolf Tooth's chain rings, slap it on your current crankset, and you have a 1X set up as good if not better than XX-1 at a bit more than maybe a NX set up will cost you. Well.....that is if your rig is 11 speed. Of course, you can easily approximate the same deal in 10 speed for similar amounts of cabbage and have a far better quality set up than NX.

So, a great marketing campaign, a good way to get OE spec, but otherwise, not really all that big of a deal in real terms for the performance minded riders that demand durable, great performing parts. I still think Shimano outperforms this stuff, and that 2 X 11 or 2 X 10 is still a better option for riders. Shimano has front derailleurs dialed, and with a two ring crankset, there is absolutely no way that a 1 X 11 covers the same range of gearing for most technical mountain biking with any appreciable elevation changes. Not only that, but your gearing can have closer ratio jumps between gears, helping to maintain momentum, and cadence speeds don't change all that much, making you more efficient.

Will 1X take over the mtb world? I am rather skeptical of that. Especially when wheel technology and the spaces we have to work in for components is what it is. Does 1X look better? Maybe. Does 1X appeal to the mind as being easier to understand? Most definitely. Is it better for "your motor"? Well, there is the real question, no? I will say that a closer ratio gearing is generally preferred by racing folks, and for a good reason. I think average folk can also benefit for similar reasons, and that's why I am not sold on 1X.

Okay, enough ranting for one day! Have a great weekend and hopefully you can hit some cycling up where you live.