Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Is Social Media Killing The Local Bike Shop?

Social media sites like Facebook are rife with pages that anyone can find a good used bike on.
Throughout the last decade or so, the bicycle industry has been banging on about how retail is changing at a rapid pace and how bicycle shop owners are going to have to change the way they do business to survive. Internet site sales by former mail order companies and massive retail internet sites like Wiggle, Chain Reaction, and others are often blamed for this malaise the bicycling retailer with a physical location is suffering. ("Brick & Mortar" in industry lingo.)

 I've not seen much, if any, chatter in the industry rags about how social media is cutting in on the action. I believe that social media has changed the landscape. There is a bustling business in used bicycles and parts going on right now on various social media sites, but the biggest of these has to be Facebook.

Thinking back on my time in this industry, it has become apparent that the social media era we find ourselves in was the missing link to a market place that was just waiting for the right answer to come along to its problem. Throughout the decades, there have been thousands of new bicycles produced every year. The way the industry used to work was based on enticing consumers to buy the latest thing in cycling. That may have been the safety bicycle back in the late 19th Century, or the bicycle with a freehub and a coaster brake in the early 20th Century. "Ten speeds", mountain bikes, and the ultra-lightweight, carbon road bike all had their heydays in the pre-internet world.  Part of the reason why was because there weren't any other venues or ways to pursue getting a bicycle easily than the local bike shop, or "LBS", for short.

Barely used bikes at bargain prices are listed all the time on Facebook.
Another big reason why new bikes always sold well was because it was hard to see what used bikes were available. Think about it- where did all the thousands upon thousands of bike shop quality bikes go all these years? 

You either found them randomly at garage sales, maybe traded in at the local bike shops, or they hung in various garages, barns, and storage sheds across the nation, never to be seen again. You might have had a vibrant sporting goods section in the local newspaper at one time, but you know what happened to all of those want ads? That is right, the internet killed that off. Besides, not everyone took a subscription out to a newspaper.

There was no real used marketplace for bicycles that was easy to use for decades. However; that all started to change with the advent of e-bay and Craigslist. Facebook has just accelerated the way used bikes are traded since the ads are free and there are no fees to trading beyond shipping the goods back and forth. There is no "negative feedback", ratings, or hoops to jump through. Anyone with a smartphone and a modicum of ability can set up an ad on Facebook's various cycling pages. Facebook cycling pages are basically modern day "want ads" without any cost.

Many times retailers will even use the various Facebook pages to close out excess inventory.
  Since the social media sites have created a marketplace for used gear which is easy to use and costs the users essentially nothing, it has accelerated the pace at which the marketplace for used bicycles and gear has grown.  Now used gear is a serious threat to new bike sales and new accessory sales. With all the barriers swept aside, cyclists don't even have to enter a bike shop or use an online retailer to get the gear they want. Simply staring at several cycling related Facebook pages on their cell phones or tablets incessantly until the right deal comes up is all they have to do. And let's face it, who doesn't have spare "device time" to burn up looking for a deal?

Now I've noticed a fairly new phenomenon where a user associated with a bike shop will list discontinued, demoed, or slightly used gear from a bicycle shop on various Facebook pages. The way this is done makes it difficult to pin down who the shop behind the deal is. Sometimes the use of stock photos is a clue, or the item appears to be in a shop setting. Sometimes I've seen comments in threads under sale posts that reveal that the gear or bicycle in question is indeed bicycle Brick & Mortar inventory. I guess it is a case of "if ya can't beat 'em, join 'em."

So, the bottom line is that these used bicycle gear sites and "pages" have to be taking a bite out of the LBS's sales. I can point to a few things I am aware of that affected the shop where I work, so I am sure we are not an outlier there. This is an undercurrent of the troubles that the bicycle business is experiencing that isn't being addressed by the talking heads and so-called experts in the industry. The bicycle business based its existence on "model years" and the "latest thing" for so long that the bubble of used gear that built up has now become a flood of commerce that is happening right under the industry's nose, and the industry doesn't even seem to notice it.

Is Social Media Killing The Local Bike Shop?

Social media sites like Facebook are rife with pages that anyone can find a good used bike on.
Throughout the last decade or so, the bicycle industry has been banging on about how retail is changing at a rapid pace and how bicycle shop owners are going to have to change the way they do business to survive. Internet site sales by former mail order companies and massive retail internet sites like Wiggle, Chain Reaction, and others are often blamed for this malaise the bicycling retailer with a physical location is suffering. ("Brick & Mortar" in industry lingo.)

 I've not seen much, if any, chatter in the industry rags about how social media is cutting in on the action. I believe that social media has changed the landscape. There is a bustling business in used bicycles and parts going on right now on various social media sites, but the biggest of these has to be Facebook.

Thinking back on my time in this industry, it has become apparent that the social media era we find ourselves in was the missing link to a market place that was just waiting for the right answer to come along to its problem. Throughout the decades, there have been thousands of new bicycles produced every year. The way the industry used to work was based on enticing consumers to buy the latest thing in cycling. That may have been the safety bicycle back in the late 19th Century, or the bicycle with a freehub and a coaster brake in the early 20th Century. "Ten speeds", mountain bikes, and the ultra-lightweight, carbon road bike all had their heydays in the pre-internet world.  Part of the reason why was because there weren't any other venues or ways to pursue getting a bicycle easily than the local bike shop, or "LBS", for short.

Barely used bikes at bargain prices are listed all the time on Facebook.
Another big reason why new bikes always sold well was because it was hard to see what used bikes were available. Think about it- where did all the thousands upon thousands of bike shop quality bikes go all these years? 

You either found them randomly at garage sales, maybe traded in at the local bike shops, or they hung in various garages, barns, and storage sheds across the nation, never to be seen again. You might have had a vibrant sporting goods section in the local newspaper at one time, but you know what happened to all of those want ads? That is right, the internet killed that off. Besides, not everyone took a subscription out to a newspaper.

There was no real used marketplace for bicycles that was easy to use for decades. However; that all started to change with the advent of e-bay and Craigslist. Facebook has just accelerated the way used bikes are traded since the ads are free and there are no fees to trading beyond shipping the goods back and forth. There is no "negative feedback", ratings, or hoops to jump through. Anyone with a smartphone and a modicum of ability can set up an ad on Facebook's various cycling pages. Facebook cycling pages are basically modern day "want ads" without any cost.

Many times retailers will even use the various Facebook pages to close out excess inventory.
  Since the social media sites have created a marketplace for used gear which is easy to use and costs the users essentially nothing, it has accelerated the pace at which the marketplace for used bicycles and gear has grown.  Now used gear is a serious threat to new bike sales and new accessory sales. With all the barriers swept aside, cyclists don't even have to enter a bike shop or use an online retailer to get the gear they want. Simply staring at several cycling related Facebook pages on their cell phones or tablets incessantly until the right deal comes up is all they have to do. And let's face it, who doesn't have spare "device time" to burn up looking for a deal?

Now I've noticed a fairly new phenomenon where a user associated with a bike shop will list discontinued, demoed, or slightly used gear from a bicycle shop on various Facebook pages. The way this is done makes it difficult to pin down who the shop behind the deal is. Sometimes the use of stock photos is a clue, or the item appears to be in a shop setting. Sometimes I've seen comments in threads under sale posts that reveal that the gear or bicycle in question is indeed bicycle Brick & Mortar inventory. I guess it is a case of "if ya can't beat 'em, join 'em."

So, the bottom line is that these used bicycle gear sites and "pages" have to be taking a bite out of the LBS's sales. I can point to a few things I am aware of that affected the shop where I work, so I am sure we are not an outlier there. This is an undercurrent of the troubles that the bicycle business is experiencing that isn't being addressed by the talking heads and so-called experts in the industry. The bicycle business based its existence on "model years" and the "latest thing" for so long that the bubble of used gear that built up has now become a flood of commerce that is happening right under the industry's nose, and the industry doesn't even seem to notice it.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Forked

Original '06 Inbred fork (L) and Carbon Superlight fork from On One (R)
The tale of my old 2006 (it may actually have been an '05 model) On One Inbred 29"er continues. A brief recap in case you haven't been around here for long:

I purchased a close out On One Inbred 29"er frame and fork very early in 2006, (thus the possibility that it actually is an '05 model), and built it up as a single speed which I then used in the inaugural Dirty Kanza 200. Sometime later in 2006 I got an On One Carbon Superlight fork to mount on it and the steel fork was retired by myself, never to be used again by me. Fast forward to 2008 and I sold the frame with the original fork to a co-worker with the caveat that I had first dibs on buying it back should he ever want to get rid of it.

Meanwhile the Superlight fork made a few appearances on other bikes but was retired and eventually I sold that fork in either 2015 or early last year to another co-worker. Okay, so the original frame came back to me in May of last year, I believe it was, but with no fork. Then the original fork came back later in the year last November. So.......the old bike could be built up, right?

Actually, this brings us up to the story as it sits now. So, here is the latest.

Team Stoopid- First place 12hr Team category. We all rode rigid single speeds!
The Inbred is a special bicycle to me, not only for the DK 200 run I had on it, but also because I had used that bike for the only event I ever got a first place in. Well......it was a team event, but we came in first place. It was the 2007 Iowa 24hr Race held near Boone Iowa. I raced on a team which all used rigid single speed devices and we entered the 12 hr category. So, while it wasn't a well contested category, (we may have been the only team in the 12hr category, I am not sure), we still got first place. So, the Inbred had a special place in my heart.

Yes, I probably should never have sold it, but c'mon! We've all sold something we wish later we wouldn't have. Anyway, this is my "I shouldn't have....." and I got it and the fork back. Amazing, right?

It sure looked like I was going to be well on my way to putting the Inbred back together. However; in the years that the Inbred was with my co-worker, it led a life of hard use. The co-worker lent the bike to a brother who needed a mountain bike, then the fork was separated and sold off to someone in Colorado who rode it hard. Really hard. When the fork came back it was in rough shape. There was rust, there were plenty of scuffs, and a scratch that concerned me. Maybe it wasn't a scratch? I needed to investigate. I wasn't about to ride a fork that was compromised in any way. So, I took it to the deep looking scratch with Mother's Mag polish, hoping that it was only a deep scratch in the paint. However; upon further application of "elbow grease", it became apparent that it was something much more serious. It was a crack.

Ah! Forked!

This fork was no good.

That put me in somewhat of a pickle, since straight steer tube, 1 1/8th forks with long off sets and 470mm axle to crown heights are pretty scarce these days. Back in 2007 they were a dime a dozen, but ten years down the road they are antiques. A cursory search on the innergoogles brought up almost nothing, so I decided to shelve the project until I could bring myself to slap on a G2 offset Reba I happen to have which would have worked. I just didn't want to use any suspension fork because I never had used one on the old Inbred and I wasn't about to now.

The project was out of mind until last week when I noted that the coworker who had the On One Superlight fork was interested in selling the fork back to me. We made an agreement, and last Friday I got a hold of that fork and it is in excellent condition. This means that the Inbred project is back on again.

The ironic thing is that the Inbred was set up with the Carbon Superlight for the Iowa24hr team event I was in. So, it is a good deal that I was at least able to obtain that fork again. It preserves the geo/handling the Inbred was designed for, and obviously, it is lighter.

Stay tuned for more later on in the Spring......

Forked

Original '06 Inbred fork (L) and Carbon Superlight fork from On One (R)
The tale of my old 2006 (it may actually have been an '05 model) On One Inbred 29"er continues. A brief recap in case you haven't been around here for long:

I purchased a close out On One Inbred 29"er frame and fork very early in 2006, (thus the possibility that it actually is an '05 model), and built it up as a single speed which I then used in the inaugural Dirty Kanza 200. Sometime later in 2006 I got an On One Carbon Superlight fork to mount on it and the steel fork was retired by myself, never to be used again by me. Fast forward to 2008 and I sold the frame with the original fork to a co-worker with the caveat that I had first dibs on buying it back should he ever want to get rid of it.

Meanwhile the Superlight fork made a few appearances on other bikes but was retired and eventually I sold that fork in either 2015 or early last year to another co-worker. Okay, so the original frame came back to me in May of last year, I believe it was, but with no fork. Then the original fork came back later in the year last November. So.......the old bike could be built up, right?

Actually, this brings us up to the story as it sits now. So, here is the latest.

Team Stoopid- First place 12hr Team category. We all rode rigid single speeds!
The Inbred is a special bicycle to me, not only for the DK 200 run I had on it, but also because I had used that bike for the only event I ever got a first place in. Well......it was a team event, but we came in first place. It was the 2007 Iowa 24hr Race held near Boone Iowa. I raced on a team which all used rigid single speed devices and we entered the 12 hr category. So, while it wasn't a well contested category, (we may have been the only team in the 12hr category, I am not sure), we still got first place. So, the Inbred had a special place in my heart.

Yes, I probably should never have sold it, but c'mon! We've all sold something we wish later we wouldn't have. Anyway, this is my "I shouldn't have....." and I got it and the fork back. Amazing, right?

It sure looked like I was going to be well on my way to putting the Inbred back together. However; in the years that the Inbred was with my co-worker, it led a life of hard use. The co-worker lent the bike to a brother who needed a mountain bike, then the fork was separated and sold off to someone in Colorado who rode it hard. Really hard. When the fork came back it was in rough shape. There was rust, there were plenty of scuffs, and a scratch that concerned me. Maybe it wasn't a scratch? I needed to investigate. I wasn't about to ride a fork that was compromised in any way. So, I took it to the deep looking scratch with Mother's Mag polish, hoping that it was only a deep scratch in the paint. However; upon further application of "elbow grease", it became apparent that it was something much more serious. It was a crack.

Ah! Forked!

This fork was no good.

That put me in somewhat of a pickle, since straight steer tube, 1 1/8th forks with long off sets and 470mm axle to crown heights are pretty scarce these days. Back in 2007 they were a dime a dozen, but ten years down the road they are antiques. A cursory search on the innergoogles brought up almost nothing, so I decided to shelve the project until I could bring myself to slap on a G2 offset Reba I happen to have which would have worked. I just didn't want to use any suspension fork because I never had used one on the old Inbred and I wasn't about to now.

The project was out of mind until last week when I noted that the coworker who had the On One Superlight fork was interested in selling the fork back to me. We made an agreement, and last Friday I got a hold of that fork and it is in excellent condition. This means that the Inbred project is back on again.

The ironic thing is that the Inbred was set up with the Carbon Superlight for the Iowa24hr team event I was in. So, it is a good deal that I was at least able to obtain that fork again. It preserves the geo/handling the Inbred was designed for, and obviously, it is lighter.

Stay tuned for more later on in the Spring......

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lessons Learned From Teaching

Yesterday I just finished up with my last Mechanics Class for the year. I had a four hour class which was held twice with two different groups of cyclists/students. I taught them the basics of bicycle mechanics, how to tune up their bicycle, and some tricks of the trade I've learned and used over almost twenty years of being a bicycle mechanic.

I'm sure the students learned a lot, and if I take their comments after the fact to heart, I would say that they actually did learn something or three along the way. But what they didn't know was how much I learned teaching them.

The classes were attended by more women than I expected. Fully one third of the total number were women. That was very heartening and, I might add, exciting from my viewpoint. I was stoked because it showed me that several women were not intimidated by the shop, or signing up for classes, and that they wanted to learn. I also was stoked on every class attendant's willingness to learn, by the way, but in this day and age where you hear all kinds of chatter this way and that about how shops are or are not doing a good job with women's needs in cycling, well...... I guess the shop I work at is doing a pretty fair job in that arena.

So, I learned that.

I also learned that people around here don't mind getting their hands dirty. That's good to see. The students dug in and worked with their bicycles and were getting knowledge built through doing. But more than that, I learned that there is a certain joy in giving away knowledge and wisdom gained through a lifetime of work.

I could be like so many mechanics who begrudgingly give out snippets of information, or who won't teach the tricks of the trade for fear that they will lose business or......whatever it is they are afraid of. I don't know. I guess I don't see it that way. I learned something quite different, actually. I learned that when you share some good information people actually respect that and trust and relationship in terms of the business actually grows stronger.

So, those are a few of the things I learned from teaching. I hope to continue that and learn even more.

Lessons Learned From Teaching

Yesterday I just finished up with my last Mechanics Class for the year. I had a four hour class which was held twice with two different groups of cyclists/students. I taught them the basics of bicycle mechanics, how to tune up their bicycle, and some tricks of the trade I've learned and used over almost twenty years of being a bicycle mechanic.

I'm sure the students learned a lot, and if I take their comments after the fact to heart, I would say that they actually did learn something or three along the way. But what they didn't know was how much I learned teaching them.

The classes were attended by more women than I expected. Fully one third of the total number were women. That was very heartening and, I might add, exciting from my viewpoint. I was stoked because it showed me that several women were not intimidated by the shop, or signing up for classes, and that they wanted to learn. I also was stoked on every class attendant's willingness to learn, by the way, but in this day and age where you hear all kinds of chatter this way and that about how shops are or are not doing a good job with women's needs in cycling, well...... I guess the shop I work at is doing a pretty fair job in that arena.

So, I learned that.

I also learned that people around here don't mind getting their hands dirty. That's good to see. The students dug in and worked with their bicycles and were getting knowledge built through doing. But more than that, I learned that there is a certain joy in giving away knowledge and wisdom gained through a lifetime of work.

I could be like so many mechanics who begrudgingly give out snippets of information, or who won't teach the tricks of the trade for fear that they will lose business or......whatever it is they are afraid of. I don't know. I guess I don't see it that way. I learned something quite different, actually. I learned that when you share some good information people actually respect that and trust and relationship in terms of the business actually grows stronger.

So, those are a few of the things I learned from teaching. I hope to continue that and learn even more.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 8

Still rolling these things.
Ten years ago here on the blog I had plenty of pictures! However; I must not have pulled my camera out at Frostbike ten years ago because I had no images posted of that show at all. I think I know what happened there.....

A little over eleven years ago, nobody had ever heard of me. Then this blog got started, I got recognized by the bicycle industry as a 29"er guy, and then all the Trans Iowa brouhaha blew up, especially after V2. By 2007, I was getting tapped on the shoulder and shaking a lot of hands wherever I went to a bicycling type of gathering.

Looking back on my Frostbike report from '07, I see that I ended up yakking for several hours before I went into "work mode" and went about the show at the last minute to gather information. This between times of riding Ben Witt's 36"er outside, gathering up my brand spankin' new Industry 9 single speed wheel set, and more gabbing.

So, that was a prototype and foreshadowing of the next several Frostbikes to come for me. That weekend used to be pretty crazy, but those times are gone now. It was a fun period in my life I won't soon forget.

Anyway, the I-9 wheels were part of a special bike build I was having put together which included the special custom fillet brazed frame I mentioned yesterday in the blog. That frame was supposed to be a single speed frame, but due to some weird circumstances, it came to me as a vertical drop out frame with no provisions for single speed set up. So, this wheel set ended up on a completely different bike, and is on that bike to this day. One more thing- This was supposed to be an orange anodized hub set, but it came out an orangey-bronze-brown instead. Very odd. Definitely NOT orange like I-9 has been doing of late.

More on those special bikes as we get into the Minus Ten Reviews this year.......

Minus Ten Review- 8

Still rolling these things.
Ten years ago here on the blog I had plenty of pictures! However; I must not have pulled my camera out at Frostbike ten years ago because I had no images posted of that show at all. I think I know what happened there.....

A little over eleven years ago, nobody had ever heard of me. Then this blog got started, I got recognized by the bicycle industry as a 29"er guy, and then all the Trans Iowa brouhaha blew up, especially after V2. By 2007, I was getting tapped on the shoulder and shaking a lot of hands wherever I went to a bicycling type of gathering.

Looking back on my Frostbike report from '07, I see that I ended up yakking for several hours before I went into "work mode" and went about the show at the last minute to gather information. This between times of riding Ben Witt's 36"er outside, gathering up my brand spankin' new Industry 9 single speed wheel set, and more gabbing.

So, that was a prototype and foreshadowing of the next several Frostbikes to come for me. That weekend used to be pretty crazy, but those times are gone now. It was a fun period in my life I won't soon forget.

Anyway, the I-9 wheels were part of a special bike build I was having put together which included the special custom fillet brazed frame I mentioned yesterday in the blog. That frame was supposed to be a single speed frame, but due to some weird circumstances, it came to me as a vertical drop out frame with no provisions for single speed set up. So, this wheel set ended up on a completely different bike, and is on that bike to this day. One more thing- This was supposed to be an orange anodized hub set, but it came out an orangey-bronze-brown instead. Very odd. Definitely NOT orange like I-9 has been doing of late.

More on those special bikes as we get into the Minus Ten Reviews this year.......

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday News And Views

Pre-Order Ends Today:

Just a friendly reminder that the RidingGravel.com jersey/shorts/accessories pre-order ends today.

If you've ordered anything, the deal is supposed to be all manufactured and sent out in Mid-March, so this stuff should hit about the time that good weather comes to stay. (Hopefully!)

So this year I will have this kit, and I also pre-ordered the "army green" Pirate Cycling League kit again. I like supporting that group of guys. They've truly been some of the unsung pioneers of the gravel scene. Lincoln, Nebraska had gravel grinders before anyone knew what they were. I'm talking way back.

Anyway, new jerseys are coming, and even though they aren't wool, I will wear these when I am training or riding for fun. Of course, I'll likely fly the RidingGravel.com livery at selected events. I'd like to make a jersey based off our design for the RG jersey in wool. I may have to look into that.....

Creamy. You'll understand later.......
Another Piece Of The Puzzle:

I am continuing to gather up the parts I want to get for the old frame I have in the basement put back together again. It is a fillet brazed piece and you've seen it before here on the blog. Ten years ago is when I got it, so it seems only fitting that I resurrect it now.

The Salsa Ti Regulator post will be what this Brooks C-17 gets mounted to. I expect that the result will be one super-cushy ride. Each of these components I have ridden before, but not in combination, so I have an inkling that it should prove to be a good way to go.

I'm choosing the "Natural" version of the C-17 as it will really compliment the paint scheme of the frame and the over-all look I am trying to achieve here with this bike build. I have much of the drive train sorted already, and the last bit remaining that will be a big expense will be the wheels.

So, I will be researching my choices in the wheel department. I am looking at new hubs. I really don't need to get hubs because I have some that would work, but in this instance I think I have to "do it right". The reasoning there is because I didn't "do it right" the first time I built this up, nor the second time that I built it up. I basically hodge-podged the thing and that always bugged me. It is a custom frame, for crying out loud. It deserves a top-flite build, so that's what it is going to get.

There is a reason this visual abomination exists.
When "Stiff" Isn't What Is "Good"

I was reading about a prototype "gravel bike" that will be coming out soon. In the "blah-blah" about the bike, the comment I saw that raised a red flag for me was one referring to the proposed frame for the bike. It read as follows, ".......should help improve stiffness up front"

If you ride rough, gravel laden roads, the last thing you want is a stiffer anything up front. Unless you like getting jack-hammered into submission and think that makes you more "manly" or something. I don't know. I just don't get all these "stiffer forks", "stiffer front ends" and whatnot. Obviously, there is a missing link here with "designers of gravel bikes" and "people who actually ride" gravel bikes.

Take the ugly duckling of a fork many are flocking to to relieve themselves of vibrations. That would be the Lauf Grit model. It flies in the face of the "stiffer is better" mantra by using 30mm of undamped travel. Travel- as in suspension travel. Not stiffness. 

Whatever you may think of the Lauf, it brings up an interesting conundrum when considering what many companies are saying we need in a gravel/all road bike and what many riders are actually seeking for in a gravel/all road bike. That quality riders would be seeking is less vibrations, and I am pretty certain that a "stiffer front end" and a "stiffer fork" are not going to be bringing on the "less vibrations" feelings. Yeah........I am pretty sure about that. 

So, if you are working for a company that is seeking to bring out a model for gravel/all road riding, don't make the front end stiffer! That's the wrong direction. Make the front end more compliant, more comfortable, and hopefully, better looking than the Lauf Grit fork.

If you take my suggestions to heart, we'll be heading in the right direction. For once.......

That's all for this weekend. Stay warm, stay upright! Get out and ride if ya can.  

Friday News And Views

Pre-Order Ends Today:

Just a friendly reminder that the RidingGravel.com jersey/shorts/accessories pre-order ends today.

If you've ordered anything, the deal is supposed to be all manufactured and sent out in Mid-March, so this stuff should hit about the time that good weather comes to stay. (Hopefully!)

So this year I will have this kit, and I also pre-ordered the "army green" Pirate Cycling League kit again. I like supporting that group of guys. They've truly been some of the unsung pioneers of the gravel scene. Lincoln, Nebraska had gravel grinders before anyone knew what they were. I'm talking way back.

Anyway, new jerseys are coming, and even though they aren't wool, I will wear these when I am training or riding for fun. Of course, I'll likely fly the RidingGravel.com livery at selected events. I'd like to make a jersey based off our design for the RG jersey in wool. I may have to look into that.....

Creamy. You'll understand later.......
Another Piece Of The Puzzle:

I am continuing to gather up the parts I want to get for the old frame I have in the basement put back together again. It is a fillet brazed piece and you've seen it before here on the blog. Ten years ago is when I got it, so it seems only fitting that I resurrect it now.

The Salsa Ti Regulator post will be what this Brooks C-17 gets mounted to. I expect that the result will be one super-cushy ride. Each of these components I have ridden before, but not in combination, so I have an inkling that it should prove to be a good way to go.

I'm choosing the "Natural" version of the C-17 as it will really compliment the paint scheme of the frame and the over-all look I am trying to achieve here with this bike build. I have much of the drive train sorted already, and the last bit remaining that will be a big expense will be the wheels.

So, I will be researching my choices in the wheel department. I am looking at new hubs. I really don't need to get hubs because I have some that would work, but in this instance I think I have to "do it right". The reasoning there is because I didn't "do it right" the first time I built this up, nor the second time that I built it up. I basically hodge-podged the thing and that always bugged me. It is a custom frame, for crying out loud. It deserves a top-flite build, so that's what it is going to get.

There is a reason this visual abomination exists.
When "Stiff" Isn't What Is "Good"

I was reading about a prototype "gravel bike" that will be coming out soon. In the "blah-blah" about the bike, the comment I saw that raised a red flag for me was one referring to the proposed frame for the bike. It read as follows, ".......should help improve stiffness up front"

If you ride rough, gravel laden roads, the last thing you want is a stiffer anything up front. Unless you like getting jack-hammered into submission and think that makes you more "manly" or something. I don't know. I just don't get all these "stiffer forks", "stiffer front ends" and whatnot. Obviously, there is a missing link here with "designers of gravel bikes" and "people who actually ride" gravel bikes.

Take the ugly duckling of a fork many are flocking to to relieve themselves of vibrations. That would be the Lauf Grit model. It flies in the face of the "stiffer is better" mantra by using 30mm of undamped travel. Travel- as in suspension travel. Not stiffness. 

Whatever you may think of the Lauf, it brings up an interesting conundrum when considering what many companies are saying we need in a gravel/all road bike and what many riders are actually seeking for in a gravel/all road bike. That quality riders would be seeking is less vibrations, and I am pretty certain that a "stiffer front end" and a "stiffer fork" are not going to be bringing on the "less vibrations" feelings. Yeah........I am pretty sure about that. 

So, if you are working for a company that is seeking to bring out a model for gravel/all road riding, don't make the front end stiffer! That's the wrong direction. Make the front end more compliant, more comfortable, and hopefully, better looking than the Lauf Grit fork.

If you take my suggestions to heart, we'll be heading in the right direction. For once.......

That's all for this weekend. Stay warm, stay upright! Get out and ride if ya can.  

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Country Views 17: One Last Time Before It Goes

The Tamland Two in repose
This spate of warmer than usual weather has been going on for about two weeks now. Wednesday was the zenith. The finest day of them all,with last Friday a close second. Not a trace of snow can be found now, however, and even the grass is greening up in places.

But it is over for now.

Today we are sliding downward to more natural for late February temperatures. It was nearly 70 degrees out Wednesday and by Saturday it will struggle to get into the low 20's. The warmer weather we saw won't be back again for a while. How long is anybodies guess, so I was in no way going to miss out on a gravel ride on Wednesday.

This time I assumed that the winds would be Southerly, and I was correct. I just didn't know how strong they were going to be. I figured that they were a pretty steady 20mph and higher at times. Right out of the South-Southwest. It was a grind going down Aker Road, but every mile pedaled South put another mile into the "fun bank".

The gravel certainly wasn't an issue. It was packed in by the traffic during wetter times and hasn't been maintained yet at all. It was fast and with the warmer weather and winds we've had, it was dry to slightly damp. In a few places it was outright wet, and I saw one place with standing water, but really, it was quite good out there.

Apparently the foxes are digging up these holes along Aker road. A co-worker saw a fox in this area Saturday.
It was sunny and windy for my entire ride but back toward town looked cloudy.
I was thinking I might go to Traer on this ride, but with such a strong wind requiring a lot of work, I decided not to burn too many matches up and cut that plan short. I ended up turning back East on Reinbeck Road and then back North on Beck Road. It was a good plan for me since the rest of the day after I got back I was cooked. Building blocks. I'll be doing bigger rides later with no problem.

That's not a gravel road that goes anywhere. It is a service road for a new wind generator due to go up soon.
I had read on-line on the local news provider's page that new wind generators were going to be getting installed soon in Southern Black Hawk County. I ended up going by an access road and saw where one of those is going to be going in. I got a picture of the unsullied horizon line, just so I won't forget what it looked like before the thicket of generators goes up.

Looking South towards Tama County. Looks like some farmers have been doing some tilling already.
 There really wasn't much to look at on this trip. I saw a couple of Red Winged Blackbirds already. I saw a nice hawk in a tree as I swung back over to the Sergeant Road bike path, but that was about it. I had a good, tough, but fun ride anyway. Riding without a jacket on February 22nd? Are you kidding me? I'll likely never be able to do that again.

Or let's hope that is the case!


Country Views 17: One Last Time Before It Goes

The Tamland Two in repose
This spate of warmer than usual weather has been going on for about two weeks now. Wednesday was the zenith. The finest day of them all,with last Friday a close second. Not a trace of snow can be found now, however, and even the grass is greening up in places.

But it is over for now.

Today we are sliding downward to more natural for late February temperatures. It was nearly 70 degrees out Wednesday and by Saturday it will struggle to get into the low 20's. The warmer weather we saw won't be back again for a while. How long is anybodies guess, so I was in no way going to miss out on a gravel ride on Wednesday.

This time I assumed that the winds would be Southerly, and I was correct. I just didn't know how strong they were going to be. I figured that they were a pretty steady 20mph and higher at times. Right out of the South-Southwest. It was a grind going down Aker Road, but every mile pedaled South put another mile into the "fun bank".

The gravel certainly wasn't an issue. It was packed in by the traffic during wetter times and hasn't been maintained yet at all. It was fast and with the warmer weather and winds we've had, it was dry to slightly damp. In a few places it was outright wet, and I saw one place with standing water, but really, it was quite good out there.

Apparently the foxes are digging up these holes along Aker road. A co-worker saw a fox in this area Saturday.
It was sunny and windy for my entire ride but back toward town looked cloudy.
I was thinking I might go to Traer on this ride, but with such a strong wind requiring a lot of work, I decided not to burn too many matches up and cut that plan short. I ended up turning back East on Reinbeck Road and then back North on Beck Road. It was a good plan for me since the rest of the day after I got back I was cooked. Building blocks. I'll be doing bigger rides later with no problem.

That's not a gravel road that goes anywhere. It is a service road for a new wind generator due to go up soon.
I had read on-line on the local news provider's page that new wind generators were going to be getting installed soon in Southern Black Hawk County. I ended up going by an access road and saw where one of those is going to be going in. I got a picture of the unsullied horizon line, just so I won't forget what it looked like before the thicket of generators goes up.

Looking South towards Tama County. Looks like some farmers have been doing some tilling already.
 There really wasn't much to look at on this trip. I saw a couple of Red Winged Blackbirds already. I saw a nice hawk in a tree as I swung back over to the Sergeant Road bike path, but that was about it. I had a good, tough, but fun ride anyway. Riding without a jacket on February 22nd? Are you kidding me? I'll likely never be able to do that again.

Or let's hope that is the case!


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What Is A Mountain Bike?

This is the only geared MTB I have now. The Singular Buzzard
I rode my Singular Buzzard to work and back yesterday. It is massive overkill for a commuter bike, but you have to love how that 140mm travel fork erases curbs. You have to try it to understand. There is no bump sensation at the bars at all.

Anyway.....

I got to thinking, I don't have a "real mountain bike" except for this Buzzard. Sure, I have the Fat Fargo, and I have a few single speeds, but when it comes to rough and tumble off roading, well....."you need a real mountain bike". That is what I was thinking. Then the very next thought was, "What is a "real mountain bike" anyway? I bet you could get six different answers from ten people if you asked ten folks that question.

Probably the only thing you could get everybody to agree on is that the tires need to have volume and knobs. That said, I seriously feel that the rest of it is up for grabs when you try to define the quintessential mountain bike. Basically, the real answer is, there isn't such a beast anymore. There are just too many permutations of what is used off-road now that to say that one of those many variations is a "real mountain bike" is just not possible, nor  wise to even try to do.

Years ago this was your only choice for a mountain bike.
Once upon a time, from about 1980 until around 1990 or so, the name "mountain bike" meant a hard tail, 26 inch wheeled, rigid forked, multi-speed, fat tired, knobby machine. Heck, around 1980 the term was a brand name. 

That's right. The very first brand to actively market these off roading bicycles was a company dubbed "Mountain Bikes" and was owned by Charlie Kelly and another fella by the name of Gary Fisher. Yes......that Gary Fisher. 

However; after 1990 the term started to mean more than a simple hard tail with gears and knobby tires. That kept evolving and now anything goes. Fat bikes, down hill bikes, enduro bikes, single speeds, 29"ers, 27.5"ers, front suspended, and fully rigid. Even "e-mtb's", with motors on 'em, are dubbed "mountain bikes".

So, what the heck is the definitive mountain bike? That's like asking what is the definitive dog breed. There isn't one. They are all just "dogs". You cannot really say which breed is best, or preeminent, or a "real" dog. I say this has happened to mountain bikes. Heck, some folks say road bikes are mountain bikes. But don't listen to those folks. They are crazy.

So, anyway, back to my Singular Buzzard. It isn't really a mountain bike, it is a super commuter bike! At least that is what it was yesterday. And in the end, it worked, I had fun, and that is all that matters. No matter whatcha callit! 




What Is A Mountain Bike?

This is the only geared MTB I have now. The Singular Buzzard
I rode my Singular Buzzard to work and back yesterday. It is massive overkill for a commuter bike, but you have to love how that 140mm travel fork erases curbs. You have to try it to understand. There is no bump sensation at the bars at all.

Anyway.....

I got to thinking, I don't have a "real mountain bike" except for this Buzzard. Sure, I have the Fat Fargo, and I have a few single speeds, but when it comes to rough and tumble off roading, well....."you need a real mountain bike". That is what I was thinking. Then the very next thought was, "What is a "real mountain bike" anyway? I bet you could get six different answers from ten people if you asked ten folks that question.

Probably the only thing you could get everybody to agree on is that the tires need to have volume and knobs. That said, I seriously feel that the rest of it is up for grabs when you try to define the quintessential mountain bike. Basically, the real answer is, there isn't such a beast anymore. There are just too many permutations of what is used off-road now that to say that one of those many variations is a "real mountain bike" is just not possible, nor  wise to even try to do.

Years ago this was your only choice for a mountain bike.
Once upon a time, from about 1980 until around 1990 or so, the name "mountain bike" meant a hard tail, 26 inch wheeled, rigid forked, multi-speed, fat tired, knobby machine. Heck, around 1980 the term was a brand name. 

That's right. The very first brand to actively market these off roading bicycles was a company dubbed "Mountain Bikes" and was owned by Charlie Kelly and another fella by the name of Gary Fisher. Yes......that Gary Fisher. 

However; after 1990 the term started to mean more than a simple hard tail with gears and knobby tires. That kept evolving and now anything goes. Fat bikes, down hill bikes, enduro bikes, single speeds, 29"ers, 27.5"ers, front suspended, and fully rigid. Even "e-mtb's", with motors on 'em, are dubbed "mountain bikes".

So, what the heck is the definitive mountain bike? That's like asking what is the definitive dog breed. There isn't one. They are all just "dogs". You cannot really say which breed is best, or preeminent, or a "real" dog. I say this has happened to mountain bikes. Heck, some folks say road bikes are mountain bikes. But don't listen to those folks. They are crazy.

So, anyway, back to my Singular Buzzard. It isn't really a mountain bike, it is a super commuter bike! At least that is what it was yesterday. And in the end, it worked, I had fun, and that is all that matters. No matter whatcha callit! 




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Randomonium

Who comes up with these names? Really? Image courtesy of Quarc
Randomonium- The Gizmo Edition:

There have been a few introductions lately that are mildly interesting. First up is this electronic device that monitors your suspension 1000 times per minute and then connects to a phone app to tell you how you should set up your suspension devices.

The device is from Quarc who do power meter stuff. So, it is likely based on technology they already were working with, accelerometers and whatnot. Anyway, it is another analyzing gizmo that you can drive yourself nuts with. I suppose for those who need to have every last advantage, it is a tool that makes sense.

Single speed your XD cassette driver. Image courtesy of QBP

Problem Solvers released this gizmo for single speeders that can turn your XD cassette body into a single speed ready set up. It is based on the IS standard brake mount (six bolt standard) which some fixed gear cogs have been released in. I have a "Tomi Cog" that uses this hole standard. Problem Solvers are also going to make a selection of cogs now using this bolt pattern.

The main body can be spaced with provided spacers to align the chain line so that your cog lines up with the chain ring. They are calling this gizmo the "Zinger".

Ya know, if you've already ditched off your front derailleur, because, ya know, who needs that device?!! Well......you may as well go all the way! Get rid of that dangly bit on the rear as well. Who needs 12 cogs out back? Eagle-schmeagle! Go with just one speed and mash!

I half jokingly made reference to getting a system for converting an XD driver to single speed use a while back, and now here it is. Crazy.

32T capacity now for WiFli eTap. Image courtesy of SRAM

eTap now has a mid-cage rear derailleur and capability to be set up for a low 32T rear cassette gear. That means we may see this stuff start showing up in the gravel races. Maybe.

That is if we see less failures. There is a lot of chatter out there saying eTap is locking up and leaving riders in the lurch. I'm seeing this on mechanic's boards on-line and seeing riders complaints about the issue.

I know many gravel riders are chattering about Di2 and that seems to be working well out on the gravel roads. I don't hear much about eTap. I am still waiting to see even one eTap group out in the wild yet. Meanwhile, FSA is set to bring out another electronic group, and Rotor is doing a hydraulically actuated one. Seems that the simple Bowden cable is under siege and may suffer somewhat from all of this gizmo action. But you can bet that cables and housings will be around for a long time yet.

Randomonium

Who comes up with these names? Really? Image courtesy of Quarc
Randomonium- The Gizmo Edition:

There have been a few introductions lately that are mildly interesting. First up is this electronic device that monitors your suspension 1000 times per minute and then connects to a phone app to tell you how you should set up your suspension devices.

The device is from Quarc who do power meter stuff. So, it is likely based on technology they already were working with, accelerometers and whatnot. Anyway, it is another analyzing gizmo that you can drive yourself nuts with. I suppose for those who need to have every last advantage, it is a tool that makes sense.

Single speed your XD cassette driver. Image courtesy of QBP

Problem Solvers released this gizmo for single speeders that can turn your XD cassette body into a single speed ready set up. It is based on the IS standard brake mount (six bolt standard) which some fixed gear cogs have been released in. I have a "Tomi Cog" that uses this hole standard. Problem Solvers are also going to make a selection of cogs now using this bolt pattern.

The main body can be spaced with provided spacers to align the chain line so that your cog lines up with the chain ring. They are calling this gizmo the "Zinger".

Ya know, if you've already ditched off your front derailleur, because, ya know, who needs that device?!! Well......you may as well go all the way! Get rid of that dangly bit on the rear as well. Who needs 12 cogs out back? Eagle-schmeagle! Go with just one speed and mash!

I half jokingly made reference to getting a system for converting an XD driver to single speed use a while back, and now here it is. Crazy.

32T capacity now for WiFli eTap. Image courtesy of SRAM

eTap now has a mid-cage rear derailleur and capability to be set up for a low 32T rear cassette gear. That means we may see this stuff start showing up in the gravel races. Maybe.

That is if we see less failures. There is a lot of chatter out there saying eTap is locking up and leaving riders in the lurch. I'm seeing this on mechanic's boards on-line and seeing riders complaints about the issue.

I know many gravel riders are chattering about Di2 and that seems to be working well out on the gravel roads. I don't hear much about eTap. I am still waiting to see even one eTap group out in the wild yet. Meanwhile, FSA is set to bring out another electronic group, and Rotor is doing a hydraulically actuated one. Seems that the simple Bowden cable is under siege and may suffer somewhat from all of this gizmo action. But you can bet that cables and housings will be around for a long time yet.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Country Views '17: First Gravel

No snow, or anything green to be found just North of town.
This weekend I took advantage of the current situation to get out on the gravel again. It has been a while and it felt good to get back out there. Having been sick for almost a month to kick off the year didn't help any, but given that conditions pretty much were the worst for cycling that I could imagine, I wasn't too put out by having missed the month of January and part of February in terms of riding.

Now I am in rebuilding mode. I had to be careful not to be the "dog off the leash" and cook myself back into relapsing or injure myself with some stupid big, high mileage ride out of the gate. Although it was hard not to keep going, I reigned it in. It is especially hard when younger folks are out crushing big miles right now in this weather, but I have to be smart, not satisfying my desires and ego. The big rides will happen. I just have to make good decisions and be patient.

Okay, well- enough of that! I figured that it has been a while since I had done a "Country Views" post, and since I found something interesting to share this past weekend, I figured now would be a good time for these posts to kick in for 2017.

I didn't see any snow at all till I was nearly in Bremer County. 
I started out the ride with the temperatures in the upper 40's. It was supposed to get into the 60's, but I didn't know if my morning start would see me getting a chance to feel that out there. When I got up near Bremer County, I was cooking with my Bontrager wind jacket on, so I stopped to shed that layer and stow the jacket. Turns out that a wool long sleeved jersey and bib tights were enough. In fact, by the end of the ride I could have been riding in bib shorts.

What a beautiful day! This was far better than spending 8 hrs in a car driving to Minneapolis and back.
Traditionally, as we all know here in the Mid-West, it isn't like this in mid-February. Typically we are getting Alberta Clippers, snow, and we see an occasional dip below the zero degree mark during the month. In fact, traditionally I have shoveled more snow, living in this part of Iowa, than I do at any other time of Winter. So, when the shovels have set idle all month long and the temperatures soar into late March territory, you take advantage of that. There was no way I wasn't going to ride on Saturday.

The thing is, traditionally Frostbike happens right at this time as well. It used to be a "can't miss" event for me. However; as with anything else in life, things change, and now Frostbike is just a mildly interesting facet of the bike industry calendar. Anything that is "new" these days doesn't get introduced at a show. It gets "press released" whenever it is ready. So, almost anything noteworthy has already been revealed long before, (or as in the case of the Salsa Deadwood and Surly's Ogre, right before) the show. Going to see what is new is not a reason to go anymore.

I used to also go up to spend time with friends that have moved on to new things and are busy with the show proper. None of them would really have had the time these days to spend with me, so going for that reason is less of a reason to go now. Added to that is the fact that I would have to drive 8 hours minimum to be at a show for maybe 5 hours. That's a total of 13 hours shot when I could be riding in 60 plus degree weather and then grilling out and eating food with my family. So, that decision was a no-brainer.

A rare February "Barns for Jason" shot.
First cemetery gate shot of 2017- The gate reads "Pioneer 1864"
Now when I take off and ride North of Waterloo, I generally have to get up into Bremer County North of Highway 3 before I get into roads I am not all that familiar with. I don't expect to find much of anything that I don't know about already if I am South of Bremer County, as I was on Saturday. However; I surprised myself by discovering a mile section of road I have apparently not been on before. I noticed a cemetery gate on Gresham Road and stopped to see what it could be.

Ironically enough, it has a relatable story from today's headlines. That would be the poor treatment of immigrants. Check out the following closeup of the sign posted on the fence......


This was a new one on me. I know that there are many cemeteries in the rural areas of Iowa, but I figured I knew where most all of the prominent ones were in Black Hawk County. Guess that I didn't! So, good history to know and the first cemetery gate found during riding in 2017 that I haven't seen before.

Someone planted this little American Flag on the big rock of Big Rock Road. 
I turned and came home on Sage Road and back eventually to Waterloo. It was a good chunk of miles done at a good pace. My shoulder was fine until I hit pavement, then it ached. Weird. Well, at least I am getting the fitness headed in the right direction. That's a good thing! Stay tuned for more "Country Views 17" posts later on in Spring.

Country Views '17: First Gravel

No snow, or anything green to be found just North of town.
This weekend I took advantage of the current situation to get out on the gravel again. It has been a while and it felt good to get back out there. Having been sick for almost a month to kick off the year didn't help any, but given that conditions pretty much were the worst for cycling that I could imagine, I wasn't too put out by having missed the month of January and part of February in terms of riding.

Now I am in rebuilding mode. I had to be careful not to be the "dog off the leash" and cook myself back into relapsing or injure myself with some stupid big, high mileage ride out of the gate. Although it was hard not to keep going, I reigned it in. It is especially hard when younger folks are out crushing big miles right now in this weather, but I have to be smart, not satisfying my desires and ego. The big rides will happen. I just have to make good decisions and be patient.

Okay, well- enough of that! I figured that it has been a while since I had done a "Country Views" post, and since I found something interesting to share this past weekend, I figured now would be a good time for these posts to kick in for 2017.

I didn't see any snow at all till I was nearly in Bremer County. 
I started out the ride with the temperatures in the upper 40's. It was supposed to get into the 60's, but I didn't know if my morning start would see me getting a chance to feel that out there. When I got up near Bremer County, I was cooking with my Bontrager wind jacket on, so I stopped to shed that layer and stow the jacket. Turns out that a wool long sleeved jersey and bib tights were enough. In fact, by the end of the ride I could have been riding in bib shorts.

What a beautiful day! This was far better than spending 8 hrs in a car driving to Minneapolis and back.
Traditionally, as we all know here in the Mid-West, it isn't like this in mid-February. Typically we are getting Alberta Clippers, snow, and we see an occasional dip below the zero degree mark during the month. In fact, traditionally I have shoveled more snow, living in this part of Iowa, than I do at any other time of Winter. So, when the shovels have set idle all month long and the temperatures soar into late March territory, you take advantage of that. There was no way I wasn't going to ride on Saturday.

The thing is, traditionally Frostbike happens right at this time as well. It used to be a "can't miss" event for me. However; as with anything else in life, things change, and now Frostbike is just a mildly interesting facet of the bike industry calendar. Anything that is "new" these days doesn't get introduced at a show. It gets "press released" whenever it is ready. So, almost anything noteworthy has already been revealed long before, (or as in the case of the Salsa Deadwood and Surly's Ogre, right before) the show. Going to see what is new is not a reason to go anymore.

I used to also go up to spend time with friends that have moved on to new things and are busy with the show proper. None of them would really have had the time these days to spend with me, so going for that reason is less of a reason to go now. Added to that is the fact that I would have to drive 8 hours minimum to be at a show for maybe 5 hours. That's a total of 13 hours shot when I could be riding in 60 plus degree weather and then grilling out and eating food with my family. So, that decision was a no-brainer.

A rare February "Barns for Jason" shot.
First cemetery gate shot of 2017- The gate reads "Pioneer 1864"
Now when I take off and ride North of Waterloo, I generally have to get up into Bremer County North of Highway 3 before I get into roads I am not all that familiar with. I don't expect to find much of anything that I don't know about already if I am South of Bremer County, as I was on Saturday. However; I surprised myself by discovering a mile section of road I have apparently not been on before. I noticed a cemetery gate on Gresham Road and stopped to see what it could be.

Ironically enough, it has a relatable story from today's headlines. That would be the poor treatment of immigrants. Check out the following closeup of the sign posted on the fence......


This was a new one on me. I know that there are many cemeteries in the rural areas of Iowa, but I figured I knew where most all of the prominent ones were in Black Hawk County. Guess that I didn't! So, good history to know and the first cemetery gate found during riding in 2017 that I haven't seen before.

Someone planted this little American Flag on the big rock of Big Rock Road. 
I turned and came home on Sage Road and back eventually to Waterloo. It was a good chunk of miles done at a good pace. My shoulder was fine until I hit pavement, then it ached. Weird. Well, at least I am getting the fitness headed in the right direction. That's a good thing! Stay tuned for more "Country Views 17" posts later on in Spring.