Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bikes Of The Almanzo

Of course, as a dyed in the wool "bike nerd", I notice the bikes folks are riding at these gravel events. So, I took note of a few rigs and I have some comments to share. Let's take a look at what caught my eye at this year's Almanzo Cherry Grove checkpoint. (NOTE- Obviously there were other cool bikes. Not everyone went by me and some that did never stopped, so it is entirely possible I missed a lot of really cool rigs.)

Okay, this may be the best example of "an Almanzo rig" that there is.......or not.
The Ridley, in my opinion, is the "average" Almanzo rig. A cyclo cross bike with canti brakes. I can't tell you how many bikes like this went by me. It only goes to show you that, at least in the area near the Twin Cities, cyclo cross bikes are gravel bikes. They work fine for that purpose, obviously, and can do a UCI legal cross race, if you are so inclined. But I still say that a bike designed to be super efficient over an hour long event and that has to do what a cross bike needs to do isn't ideal for gravel roads. Been over this a million times here. Maybe someday I'll pin all my posts about that and put a perma-link in the margin or something....

Custom, steel, and different.
I saw this rig underneath Andy Tetmeyer of HED Wheels and I was glad to see him park and dismount so I could get an image of this steel rig. It is the antithesis of the Ridley above. Fender mounts and (nearly) full coverage fenders. Steel, lugged crown fork, disc brakes, and what looked to be a decent amount of bottom bracket drop compared to a cyclo cross rig. Of course, those outrageous HED rims were what most folks noticed, but take note of the non-cross approved frame pump under the top tube. Terrene Elwood 40's (Likely measuring over that), top it off. Andy got a top twenty finish on this rig for the Almanzo 100 category.

Riders were often too tired or couldn't be arsed to park their rigs proper.
This bad image of a fat bike was grabbed on the fly, because I was having my attention drawn elsewhere, but I wanted to get this anyway. It is of the first fat bike we saw Saturday in the event. Note- Steel frame, and drop bars. I thought that warranted inclusion here. Not many folks run fat bikes with drop bars.

Perhaps the perfect drive train for a messy Southern Minnesota gravel ride.
Finally, I saw this Surly with a Rohloff drive train. The massive torque arm on the non-driveside was the giveaway for me. I thought this was a smart rig for a day like Saturday was. Just look at all that limestone crap! You have to imagine that a lot of drive trains died Saturday in the messy conditions. Perhaps this rig suffered a chain replacement, maybe a bottom bracket issue, but the drive train likely is fine otherwise. A lot less expensive to maintain than some of those fancy exposed drive train set ups are. I'm not 100% sure, but this rig was running a chain tensioner and there might be an inner chain ring there......hmmm. 

Of course, I did see a smattering of actual "gravel bikes". There were your Warbirds, Vayas, and Tamlands running out there along with some other gravel rigs from other brands.

Again, not all the bicycles even made it to Cherry Grove. There was the Stiller tandem, which I heard broke down, and likely a lot of other, super cool bicycles, (and people, obviously), that didn't get to Cherry Grove or who just rode on by like Greg Gleason did on his Cutthroat. So, I am not saying this is a definitive listing at all, but it is what I saw.

Thanks again to the Almanzo folks, Penn Cycles, and the Spring Valley Tourism board for letting RidingGravel.com come and be the sponsor of the Cherry Grove stop. We are tentatively scheduled to do it again next year. Let's hope for better weather next time!


Gus said...

The Rohloff bike was mine... Excellent shifting all day! The chain tensioner is b/c the Surly LHT doesn't have any fancy adjustable or sliding dropouts. The inner chain ring is simply a spacer because I didn't have any shorter chainring bolts on hand (sloppy and amateur-ish, I know), and was using the orignal 3x crank and square taper BB. The bike build is evolving and will probably end in a new frame that supports adjustable chainstay length in a robust way to make it even more reliable, or a trip to my local framebuilder. Thanks for all that you do for the community!


Guitar Ted said...

@Gus- Hey Angus, thanks for commenting! I thought perhaps you were being cagey by running the inner ring to get lower gears. But your explanation makes more sense.

I have friends and acquaintances with Rohloffs and they all like them a lot. Maybe someday I'll get one......

Phillip Cowan said...

I like that the Surly/Rohloff bike is wearing flat pedals sans any foot retention. I think you'll see more of this in the future as riders slowly realize that having your feet attached to the pedals is not necessary or even desirable. Perhaps Gus will comment on this and tell us if he felt handicapped by running flats.

Gus said...

@ phillip-

I ended up on flats for this race for a few different reasons, some specific for this race and some that are just more coherent to my general approach to bikes:

1. This is my only road bike, so it does as much duty grocery getting, social riding, and kid hauling as it does on rides where I'm looking to work hard. I find clipless annoying for restaurants/library/grocery store and I thought the 2 sided pedals I tried sort of sucked for both and got tired of always having the wrong pedal/shoe combo on my bike for a given activity.

2. For summer MTB I've ditched clipless. I didn't wear them at all off-road until I was in my late 20s and got serious about bikes, and never really felt comfortable. I got rid of them and I ride with more confidence and have more fun knowing I can throw the bike away if things go pear shaped.

3. For winter fatbiking, I wear army surplus mukluks since I'm prone to cold feet on the bike. I saw plenty of folks DNFing at Tuscobia 160 this year wearing racy looking clipless boots. (Plenty of folks did just fine in them too).

4. For this Almanzo in particular, I really wanted a solid foot solution since I know I'm prone to cold feet. My best choice was gore-tex hiking boots with gaiters. Overkill for sure and heavy, but I wasn't worried about my feet all day. (Lots of other people had great luck with shoe covers and cycling shoes too, so my solution was obviously not the only one).

5. I know I don't spin nice circles, I just mash like a caveman.

I should preface all of this by noting that I'm not trying to ride on the front with the fast men and women. I was carrying enough extras (gloves, socks, fleece, emergency bivy, food, matches, etc) that I was prepared to sit on the side of the road for hours and wait for my buddies to finish and come and get me if I had had a bad mechanical or something and could have ditch camped if the need arose.

I think there is some power improvement to be had with clipless pedals and good technique, but for me, riding a beefy steel touring bike with a heavy hub, there is plenty more to gain by riding more miles of any sort and *not* grabbing that extra doughnut in the conference room just because it is there and free. To answer your question, in a race where I finished many hours off the front, I feel that clipless might have earned me a few minutes. If I ever get my hands on a powertap wheel though, I will do some testing to validate my hypothesis and make a data driven decision if I'm leaving a ton on the table. For now, however, I'm happy trying to become the best flat pedal pedaler I can be since it crosses over to other genres in which I participate.

Sorry for the overly long response!!

Phillip Cowan said...

@ Angus-Thanks for the awesome response. I've been riding flats for about a year now. I don't see myself going back. I don't feel I'm losing any efficiency. My times over known routes haven't gone up(although they haven't gone down either,haha). As far as making a data driven decision there are already several good independent studies out there, ones not financed by shoe or pedal manufacturers. A quick Google search will bring up more than you probably care to read. The gist always seems to be that the subjects feel they're making more power with clipless but the instrumentation says otherwise. If they made a conscious effort to pull up on the back stroke power falls off even more. Apparently no ones pulling up on the back stroke in real life, not even track racers in an all out sprint. I think the need for foot retention will one day be discredited bicycle dogma sort of like "skinny tires are always faster".

Chris Nelson said...

Thanks for including The War Rig (AKA drop-bar Pugsley).

I rode my first Almanzo in 2015 on a Kona Dew Drop with 28mm tires; I found myself swearing loudly on all the fast descents as I got my rotors red hot. During that ride, I hatched the plan to put drop-bars on my Pug, nothing like an overkill solution to fix my poor choice in tires.

Last year's Almanzo was the drop-bar Pug's first gravel grinder... I loved it!. I made some adjustments and tweaks and brought it back for 2017 and had a good day - finished 28th place in about 8:10.

Todd (TMBImages) got a great pic last year of me and my Pug: http://tmbimages.com/Cycling/Gravel/2016/20160514-Almanzo-Royal/Almanzo-100-Royal-162/i-fRMtnFn/A

~ Chris

Guitar Ted said...

@Gus @phillip Cowan- I tested the flat pedal theory with my so-called "Fat Bike Century" last Fall and I used typical street footwear (BMX/tennis shoe style) with no issues and I know I would not have gone faster in cycling shoes.

But for me it isn't about that. I'm in a big rush sometimes just to fit a bike ride in. So if ditching the clipless pedals helps me get on a bicycle faster, I'm good with that. Ditto with the cycling shorts. I've done plenty of riding in Dickies.

Guitar Ted said...

@Chris Nelson- Hey, thank you for chiming in. "The War Rig"? I like it! Great to know the backstory on that bike as well Congrats on your hard earned finish!

75 miles south said...

I don't disagree on CX bikes being less than 100% for gravel racing in the 4-24 hour range, but that said, I'd rather gravel race a CX bike than CX race a gravel bike.