Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday News And Views

Me. Twin Six Standard Wool Jersey. Image by Izzy
Wool For Summer: My good friend Dr. Giggles turned me on to how to stay cool in Summer. He said, "Get-cher self a wool jersey, son!" I figured he was mad, or had rolled down too many upstate New York and Vermont hills, or something. But he laid out a very convincing case, and being a member of the Slender Fungus Cycling Association, well.....I took note. 

I got a close out special on a Giro wool jersey, which I employed much of last Summer to great success. Ol' Dr. Giggles wasn't foolin' around. He knew what he was on to. So, I was on the lookout for more "Summer weight" wool jerseys, and I'll tell ya, there are not many. I just wasn't connecting with many of the ones Dr. Giggles was suggesting, and some of the others some were pushing my way didn't really hit me right either. I don't know...... I am a picky son of a gun when it comes to what I wear. Just ask Mrs. Guitar Ted!

So, anyway, I was checking out the Twin Six website one day and hey! I saw this thing called The Standard Wool. I didn't waste any time and ordered one up. Those T-6 guys just make really classy, well fitting stuff, and this was no different. However; they also don't do "mee too" design, so there are a couple of things here that are different. The colored part, (blue in my example here), is actually regular ol' jersey fabric. Which is a different touch, but they took that same idea and used it to not only give color to the three back pockets, but to give those pockets structure. Ever had something heavy-ish in a regular wool jersey pocket before? Well, if you have, you know that whatever it is ends up down around yer butt after a while bouncing around back there. Wool stretches, but the Standard Wool Jersey's pockets do not.


But there's more! In the image above, you cannot tell, but I am soaking wet from a rain shower I got caught in. Hey, wool keeps you warm when that happens. Pretty awesome. Expensive? Yes. $145.00 expensive, which may scare a lot of folks off, but for how this fabric works in hot weather, it is money well spent for me. Your mileage may vary.

The new Olympus Tough TG-5
Tough Camera:

Most of the ride images and stuff I post on here and is all imagery taken with my trusty Olympus Tough TG-3. Well, it hasn't let me down yet, but I may replace it, or more likely, add something else to the camera pool. I saw that Olympus just released a Tough TG-5.

Now, I am not one to just get something because it is the next gen thing. You might have noticed I didn't mention the Tough TG-4. It was a minor change from what I had, and I did not see the value in "upgrading", if that even was an upgrade. However; there are some cool features that this TG-5 has that have given me something to chew on.

Basically, the TG-5 is somewhat similar to what I have. However; it does support RAW files, (which I haven't ever used, but probably should), and from my standpoint, better control layout and ergonomics. The TG-3 is a slippery little devil, and there isn't a lot of purchase on the camera body, which gets a little dicey while riding. (Yes.....I shoot a ton of my images while moving. So, sue me. ) The TG-5 has improved grip areas and the control dials are redesigned as well. This may be something that allows me to zoom in with one hand. That would be nice. They also redesigned the mode dial surround so that it doesn't get knocked out of the setting you select easily, which the TG-3 is really prone to do.

The accessory items available for this camera also look a bit more interesting and refined than they have offered in the past. That is a bit enticing, especially the zoom lens, so I may have to seriously consider that as well. But the main things they kept the same were good things. The "tough" features are all the same. Dust proof, freeze proof, shock resistant, and waterproof. All things I insist on for my carry-along camera on my rides. I don't want to baby sit an expensive camera while I am out riding.

It's $450.00 though, so I won't be just grabbing one right off. I need to assess my needs here, and I do have a functioning TG-3, so it isn't like I have to get a camera. But for some of the features this new one has, and the nicer video spec, I can see where it might prove to be a good upgrade, if I use it for video and RAW files, etc.


Thanks for the feedback, and due to receiving that, I have come to some decisions on the ride.

First- We will start and end at Broad Street Brewing Company in Reinbeck, Iowa. The ride will start at 6:00am.

Second: We will be flying by the seat of our pants if it rains or is wetter than a Level B might allow us to do. We may truncate the route, or .......who knows? If it gets weird, be prepared to roll with it!

Third: This means that the route will have three possibilities for resupply, bailout, or not. First, at mile 28-ish, we will pass just West of Dysart, Iowa. I figure this will be an optional stop. Then we will be going through Traer Iowa at about mile 50. This will definitely be a stop. Then at about Mile 76 we will pass through Garwin, Iowa, and we will definitely be stopping there, I figure.

The route will be 103.5 miles. I plan on doing a recon, at least partial if not all, this holiday weekend. Stay tuned for a recon report next week sometime.

That's a wrap for this edition of Friday News And Views. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Wednesday Blues

The view from the front porch on Wednesday evening.
 Wednesdays.... Lately they have been quite the bummer. For the last three weeks in a row it has been stormy and caused me to miss riding, except for last week when I got caught in the rain.

Well, when it rains and storms, then you cannot bicycle safely in the country. So what do you do? You organize, clean, maintain, write stuff, and start new projects. Well......maybe you don't write, but you get the picture. I did a lot of stuff I would have put off had I not been sequestered by imminent danger of lightning or tornado action.

Let's see.....
  • I routed the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational as a ride starting and ending at the Broad Street Brewing Company.
  • I made a tentative GPS file for the course which will be released pending recon.
  • I turned around the Fargo post Kansas thrashing. 
  • I updated my Lezyne Super GPS. (YES- a full review is still pending)
  • I organized some random tools donated to me because "you're a bicycle guy". 
  • I purchased two Bontrager Scandium 24 hole rims for a project I am going to do. (Only a wheel build)
  • I took all the random change I found on my dresser and desk, added it to the full piggy bank, and turned it in at the Credit Union. All of $21.15, so not a lot. (The piggy bank was all pennies)
I also cleaned more in the Lab, washed some clothes, answered some e-mails, posted on social media, and surfed the innergoogles because......internet. That's what you do.

Oh.........and I drank a lot of coffee. 

Of barely rained all day. Gah! Dang weathermen and their fear mongering. But then again, there was a lot of severe weather around. Who knows......

All I know is I am about done with Wednesdays like these!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: Updates & Important News!!

Yard sale at the 2015 GTDRI
First off, due to a conflict with my another event on my calendar, I have to push back the GTDRI to the first weekend of August, Saturday, August 5th.

Okay, now with that solid piece of info nailed down, I have some flexibility in some other areas. This post is for informing anyone that is interested in joining me on this no-drop, casual pace ride on gravel. I have a few ideas to share today and I am looking for feedback from interested parties.

The route this year has a theme and that is dirt roads. They call them Level B Maintenance Roads in Iowa, but essentially they are, for the most part, how all roads in Iowa were during the early 1900's. I don't have a total on mileage yet of the dirt, but expect a lot of it. This poses a risk, because, if it rains, we're in for a lot of rerouting. I may even do an alternative, "rain route", in case it does get wet. It also may be possible to do a truncated route as well.

I also wanted to make a stop at the Broad Street Brewing. As of now, I can have that happen at the 3/4's of the route mark, or we can start and stop there. The place opens at 2:00pm on Saturdays. They  do have food there as well, so I can see how a start/finish there makes more sense.
The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational is a free, no drop gravel grinder put on by Guitar Ted Productions.

Fine Details: The tentative route is 103 miles. Towns we would start at/pass through are Reinbeck/Traer. We also will be going through Garwin, Iowa, and we will pass right by Dysart, Iowa with an option to stop or go by. The ride would start at 6:00am on Saturday August 5th, 2017. This ride is completely self-supported and YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF at the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. There is no sag and no provided support of any kind. A route map of the final course will be made available before the event. This is a NO DROP RIDE. Casual pace. Stops to gather up stragglers will be made. You should have a bicycle in good running condition and have the necessary tools and supplies to service it in the field in case of minor mechanicals. You should be fairly certain that you can complete a 100 mile bicycle ride in tough terrain in possibly very humid and hot conditions. Cell service will be limited in many locations along the route and emergency services may take a long time to reach you in case of an emergency. (Ask me how I know that!) Be prepared! Be Smart!!

Here then are the options I wanted to put to you and have you comment on, if you care to.
  • Start at Traer, making Reinbeck a 3/4's of the way through the route stop,then finish in Traer. 
  • Start and finish in Reinbeck at the Broad Street Brewing Company. 
  • Have a "rain route" at the ready.
  • In case of wet weather or rain during the ride, just route on the fly accordingly. (More adventurous)
Okay, that's what I have so far. Let me know what you think

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Simplified Drive Trains Complicated By Proposed New Developments

Getting rid of that front derailleur and adding wide range cassettes has its pitfalls.
Just the other day I mentioned in a post about how I wasn't necessarily a fan of the 1X drive train craze sweeping the mountain bike world of late. I do really like the idea for fat bikes, but there are issues when you try to make the chain do the physical gymnastics required of it to make a 1X drive train work. Especially if you want a wide range of gears.

Riders are finding this out now. New 2017 bikes with different lower end spec have been plagued by issues such as dropped chains, chains that derail when pedaled backward, and by noises and excessive wear. SRAM and Shimano have responded by making further tweaks to tooth profiles on chain rings and cassette cogs to allow chains to engage and release the teeth more efficiently, especially when coming off those big, 42T-50T rear cogs.

Basically, what has happened is that we've removed our front shifting issues and found them again on the back end.

Think about it- Big chain rings up front didn't want to release the chain or pick it up easily because there was so much more chain to teeth contact by virtue of the chain ring sizes. Now those sized cogs and bigger are found out back on many mountain bikes and the chain release issues have cropped up again.

This Shimano patent applied for design shows an axially movable chain line. Courtesy of Cycling Industry News.
Now Shimano and SRAM are applying for patents to address this issue. The ideas are different, but the results sought for are the same. Shimano suggests a bottom bracket spindle that telescopes in and out to straighten chain line, which would make the drive train more efficient and discourage chain drop. This solution does what we used to do with our triple chain rings and front derailleurs- straighten our chain lines out. Obviously it would make sense that Shimano would require the bottom bracket to telescope in a way somehow synchronized to the shifter. Di2 would make sense here.

It complicates the bottom bracket, for sure, and it puts a mechanism in a place where moisture could wreak havoc on the device. However; if anyone can engineer this to work right, I would place my bets on Shimano. Still, I am not convinced something this complex can survive the rigors of mountain biking. But we may or may not see............

SRAM's solution also alters the chain line but does it by a floating chain ring mount. Image courtesy of Cycling Industry News
 SRAM seems to have taken a different approach which seems to involve canting the chain ring in the direction of how the chain wants to flow back toward the cassette, depending upon the gear chosen. This option seems to not be tied directly to how the shifter operates and would appear to be simpler and effective. However, any time I've seen any chain ring allowed to move, (granted, it wasn't designed to move), it is not a good thing. This solution leaves me with a lot of questions and concerns. Also, the SRAM solution requires a special chain ring carrier, which would suggest that it only would work with removable spider designed cranks, perhaps. More places for creaks to happen, in my opinion, here with this design.

But what really strikes me here, and actually made me laugh out loud when I first saw this, was how all this getting rid of the front derailleur was going to simplify our drive trains. 

Apparently "simple" isn't working out as well as they hoped it would! But making it more complicated is the answer? I don't see this working out well...........

Monday, June 26, 2017

Reflections On A Big Weekend In Cycling

Sarah Cooper finishing Trans Iowa v12 as Ari Andonopoulous looks on.
The month of June seems to have become the pinnacle of cycling, at least to my mind. Obviously, here in Iowa we all were rooting for Sarah Cooper, a RAAM rookie and an incredibly talented and focused athlete. This weekend she attained not only the goal of finishing this tough, 3,000 plus mile, cross country event, but she was the first placed female finisher, and led the event in that category, if not the entire way, for the majority of it. Not only this, but amongst solo competitors, she was ninth overall, (by my observation and according to results I have found.)

So,that's a big deal. I want to say "Congratulations Sarah!", and also to the team that supported her, many of whom I know. Good job!

But there were a lot of other things going on. All just over the weekend. I know folks that garnered "National Championship" jerseys in the first ever Gravel Nationals, just held in Lawrence, Kansas. I know a guy that finished the Lutsen 99'er over the weekend, and I know some folks that are on the Tour Divide route, another grueling event, which has many coming close to finishing there.

I'm probably missing a few things.....

To all of you, a hearty congratulations on your accomplishments. I guess as I reflect on the enormity of Sarah Cooper's accomplishments, and of those of several other folks, it becomes hard to process it all. As I think about this, I can only offer a few observations......
  • The "watching of dots" and the comments posted on social media make me think that this cycling thing has the power to bring folks together. Actually, it isn't necessarily the sport of cycling. We, as human beings, seem to have the capabilities, at times, to be very supportive, encouraging, empathetic, and positive. Cycling can be a catalyst for this. Big challenges seem to pull us together, even if we are sitting on our butts in office cubicles or whatever. The protagonists are the rallying point, but there is something worth latching on to here that we all can draw off of, whether we are sportsmen or not.
  • There is also a perceived negative effect by some onlookers. The "heroics" of others can seem to make us seem weak, small, and not very good. I hope that if you are feeling this that you understand that these folks that pull off these challenges are, for the most part, just like you. They have their bouts of self-loathing, doubt, and are prone to depression at times as well. They in no way want what they do to have this negative effect. Talk to someone. Don't let it fester......
  • You don't have to "go big" to get the same feelings and respect from others. I read about an event over the weekend that featured 100 miles of gravel. There were people commenting about how their finish was sweet and very memorable due to some folks being there at the finish to cheer them in. The event doesn't even have to be that big to get the same feelings. I know that there are events, like the Dirty Kanza 200, that seem to try to place a monopoly on having that vibe, that, "find your limits" thing. But don't you go thinking that they have a lock on that for a minute. The point is, go take on a challenge, and no matter how big or small it is, you will grow. You may not even finish it and it may be a life changing event for you. This could be just riding, or walking, or running, or whatever for any distance. Don't measure your challenge by the Tour Divide or RAAM. Your challenge, whatever it is, is just as big a deal as those events are. 
Just a few things I felt about all of the weekend's goings on. Thanks for reading............

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 25

Vendor bikes at the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo demo in Decorah, Iowa
Ten years ago this week I was involved in this festival/demo in Decorah Iowa that I wanted to call "The Midwest 29"er Meetup". In fact, I didn't want it to be anything else but an actual meeting of riders. All I wanted to have happen was to have riders have fun and ride bikes.

Instead, I let the guy who owned Twenty Nine Inches at that time talk me in to something else.

Boy, do I ever regret letting that happen. 

Which taught me a lesson: Don't ever let anyone talk you out of your dream or vision of how you see something going if you really believe in it. It will never be a success if you let that happen.

So it was to be with this deal called the "Big Wheeled Ballyhoo". It never really worked out, and I never really felt good about it. We had to cancel it due to weather in 2008 and in 2009 I gave it one more shot with help from good friends, and in an effort to start to turn it back in to the thing I thought it should be. Well, it snowed 8 or 9 inches, or some ridiculous thing, on that one. Plus, it happened that I couldn't even be there due to a member of the family having a health serious issue, which required me to stay home.

In short, The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo was doomed. I just wasn't meant to be, in my opinion.

Brandon, a mechanic for Milltown Cycles, riding Ben Witt's 36"er.
Oh, there were some good things that happened at that first Ballyhoo. We got  to hang out with some great folks. There were some cool bikes to check out including the first ever, (I might be mistaken here), ride by anyone of a G2 geometry Fisher Paragon with the brand new Fox fork for 29"ers. If we weren't the first, we were close to it.

Of course, there were the previously mentioned lessons learned. Invaluable to me going forward in regard to putting on Trans Iowa. At this point ten years ago, Trans Iowa was a dead idea to me, but when it was resurrected not more than a couple of months later, the Ballyhoo experiences were what I leaned on. Those experiences steeled my desire to keep Trans Iowa true to its roots and to not let anybody talk me out of that.

I also learned who some of my friends were and who supported what I believed in and who did not. Character was shown and taken note of. The entirety of the Ballyhoo experience was good in that I made some good friends, learned who I could trust, and left the rest behind. I do not regret ever doing it, but it was not a pleasant experience overall.

Sometimes learning things and growing up is hard.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday News And Views

Less expensive, 1 X 12, will be seen everywhere
New Bike Season: It is that time of year when new stuff for the new bike year, (2018 in this case), starts to trickle out. We've seen a few things already, like the new Ultegra and Niner's new SIR 9 model. Another recent intro that I haven't mentioned is SRAM's new, more wallet friendly version of 1 X 12 Eagle in the GX level. Said to be a direct competitor to XT, GX Eagle will be seen on a ton of new 2018 bicycles.

SRAM made sure you'll know it is GX Eagle because the new GX crank arms are flat and wide. Perfect for a huge "GX" logo. One of the other GX Eagle components is a grip shifter. I know that seems odd ball to many of you, but to my mind, a grip shift 1X 12 is a perfect fat bike set up. Think gloved hands, cold air, and keeping your digits warm by ganging them together in an overmitt, or under a pogie. Triggers can be a bit much in those situations whereas a grip shifter is much easier to operate under those circumstances.

Of course, the big expense in the flagship Eagle component group is the (almost) one piece, carved out of a block of steel, cassette. GX gets a pinned together set of 12 cogs. I've used a similar 11 speed cassette on my fat bike and it worked fine. So, it isn't marvelously light, but it certainly isn't heavy by any stretch of the imagination.

An entire Eagle GX groupset can be had for under $500.00, so it isn't a bad upgrade for anyone running an 11 speed SRAM 1X group. Again, I'm not necessarily a fan on all fronts. I totally get 1X for fat bikes, due to the nature of how a front derailleur ends up becoming a focal point for muck collection. (I use a fat bike for wet, muddy, slushy excursions.) I don't necessarily agree with 1X from the standpoint of chain efficiency. I still think there are times when a 2X is a better choice. I like Shimano's thinking in this regard.

The Otso Cycles, Lithic brand, "Hiili" model carbon gravel bike fork.
More Clearance:

The move to make a gravel bike, (read "fat road bike") your "One Bike to Rule Them All" bike, lately has spawned all sorts of oddball stuff that no one was dreaming of 5 years ago. In fact, had anyone introduced a 400mm axle to crown fork that fit a 29" X 2.1" tire, they would have been considered nuts. At least there would have been a lot of "WTF" going on.

But then again, maybe there still is a lot of that thought going on! 

Anyway, there it is. Otso Cycles has this very fork. It can be stuffed with all sorts of fat tired, different diameter wheels, and it could be just the thing for cyclo crossers looking for the maximum mud clearing front wheel holding device. That said, I would think a strut would be better then. Probably would look too weird, eh? But then again, there is the Lauf fork......... Who knows?!! 

Okay, so I am older, I like classic parts, and so this fork doesn't bother me so much since that huge arch looks more like a sloping investment cast crown than a uni-crown fork. Uni-crown forks are obviously a very structurally sound way to make a fork out of metal, but carbon is supposed to be able to be formed into certain shapes and retain strength. Why not approximate a sloping crown steel fork in carbon? Now that would keep some folks hair raised, I am sure, but how cool would that be?

Anyway..... My main beef with carbon forks is that they typically are brutal to ride. I sure hope this fork is not one of those forks, if ya know what I mean. Hopefully more like the TRP CX fork I got to try, or the 3T fork I heard was nice. But that isn't all Otso had to tell of......

They now are a component brand to the consumer and industry. They will be selling this fork and a handle bar, and wheels, and fat bike rims under the "Lithic"brand label.

Fatty hasn't been the same since.......
 Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational News:

I have been pretty quiet about this so far this year, but now it is getting closer and I've got plans to share. The next GTDRI happens on July 29th. (YES, I know that is the last day of RAGBRAI. That's on purpose....) That Saturday we will be going on a "tour of dirt roads" Iowa style in Tama County.

The inspiration for this route is from my friends in the Pirate Cycling League who do their own "Tour Of Dirt Roads". I thought it might be fun to try that up here.

It's a huge risk, because if it rains it will be a re-route fest and it could become a wild, weird day of wandering instead of cruising cool dirt roads, but whatever happens happens. I'm going for it.

So, as of now I am planning on the following for the route:
  • Distance- At least 100 miles, but not more than 120.
  • Starting Point- Traer Iowa. We will loop back to here to end the ride as well.
  • Pass Through Towns. (Subject to change) Toledo, Garwin, Reinbeck
  • Ride happens rain or shine with or without anyone showing up.
  • This is a free to attend ride. Anyone that thinks they can hack it can show up. 
More soon...... Stay tuned.

Have a great weekend! Ride your bicycles and stay safe!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Soggy Solstice Ride

I could see the rain coming......
Wednesday. Time to ride. would be, if it ever would quit raining on Wednesdays. Last Wednesday I got snookered out of a ride and this one looked to be headed in the same direction. We had a nice thunderstorm roll through in the morning, so I took the time to maintenance the Twin Six Standard Rando and change the elastomers in the Redshift ShockStop stem I am testing on it.

Around lunch time it cleared out and I decided to eat and then I would get out there. Well, about the time I am headed out the door, radar indicated rain all around Waterloo. I went out anyway. Heck, sometimes radar indicates rain and it amounts to nothing. Fake news and all. I wasn't going to miss out on riding.

Things looked wet all around, for sure, but where I was it seemed dry enough. No standing puddles, no spritzing of rain, no immediate threat to me. So, I went onward. Aker Road to Washburn, and around down on Holmes Road to Petrie Road to test the new Resolute's mud clearing capacity. I figured the rain would have made some nice mud for me to get in to.

That would be found out in due time. Right at that moment I had a nasty Southeastern headwind to push against. It was tough sledding heading South. The gravel was wet and actually muddy in some spots here. They must have gotten quite the gully washer that morning. No trouble with fresh gravel, at least there was that. I found plenty of good lines on my way.

Best to heed the sign, but I had testing to do!
Petrie didn't look too bad. I actually made it to the place where the black dirt turned to clay, then all bets were off. The wheels stopped turning and I was obliged to walk after that. You can see the top of the hill in the image here, and that is where I finally could drop the bike and roll it along where there was a line of clover blooming on the left side of the roadway.

Once I reached the grassy margin in the middle I could ride again.
The Resolutes clear mud like a champ, so once I got rolling again I didn't have to stop to scrape mud at all. In fact, after about a half mile of gravel you'd never know that I had been packed up with mud unless you looked at the frame. The tires looked fine.

Heading East was better than going South, but when I turned out on Ansborough, I got the full effects of the tailwind and I was off to the races. The gravel was newer over here, but as long as I was headed North it did not matter. I found it easy to keep hammering.

I went down Washburn Road and back to Aker, then started making my way back toward Waterloo. I was keeping an eye on the sky the entire ride, but it wasn't until I made it back on to the Sergeant Road bike path that I began to think I might end up getting caught in some rain.

It was going to be a close call, but in the end, I decided not to try to outrun this. I know when to make a run for it and this rain cloud wasn't warranting a heavy output. So, I motored onward.

Getting wet on the bike is maybe something a lot of people try to avoid. I guess I'd try to avoid getting into a heavy thunderstorm, but your garden variety shower? Meh..... Not that big of a deal, especially in the Summer. I wasn't too worried, and as it turned out it didn't really start raining on me in earnest until I was about 12 blocks from the house.

It is kind of a weird thing with me and rain. Once it starts raining, and I am riding, I get a boost of energy. Once on a Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitaional it rained on us and I took off up the steep hills of Jasper County like I had a turbo boost. A friend started calling me "Contador" because I was climbing so well. It was just that it was raining. I cannot explain why I am that way.

Well, the rain made me go like a son of a gun and I was home before ya knew it, dripping wet on the front porch. Some "solstice ride"! Usually it is a long day in the saddle where you expect to have to use copious amounts of sun tan lotion. Not dodging rain storms and lightning bolts!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Thinning The Herd: Part 2

Navigating the Iowan jungle.
Back in the first "Thinning The Herd" post I spoke about the Fargo Gen 2 bike and why it was that I was parting ways with that rig. I sent the frame and fork off to its new owner, and that should be arriving with him this Friday, if not before. So, that chapter in my bicycle fleet is now nearly closed.

Of course, I stripped a bunch of parts off that bike and I alluded to that in the first post linked above. The Gen 2 Fargo was known as the "Fat Fargo" since it was sporting those 27.5+ wheels and tires. This was a key part for another bike, my Fisher. Sure, it was actually a bike sold as a Trek, but c'mon! This is a Fisher bike that came out the year after Trek absorbed Fisher. I'm sure it was meant to be a Fisher.

Now for a bit of history on the Sawyer. The  Sawyer was a 2 X 9 bike with a rigid fork. Trek sold it for two years and then it went away. Obviously, it was a special model made to be an evolution of Gary Fisher's original "Klunker" bike. A model of which made a cameo appearance in the mid-90's as well. In my opinion, the 2011/2012 Sawyer model was the best looking non-custom cruiser styled mountain bike ever. Unfortunately, the absorption of the Fisher brand in to Trek's corporate "borg hive-like" culture killed the marketing of this bike. Essentially was it doomed from the get-go because Trek dealers largely ignored the whimsical, oddball Sawyer and due to the lack of marketing buzz, many riders didn't know what to make of it.

The 27.5+ wheels and this bike were meant for each other.
 Trek sent me a Sawyer to review for Twenty Nine Inches back in the day and when I was done, they, as many companies did, ignored my requests for instructions to send it back. it is to this day. I liked the Sawyer as it was offered, but it had almost no corporate buzz and getting anything beyond the basics from Trek about it was met with radio silence, for the most part. As I surmised at the time, it was an expensive bike to produce, since it had so many proprietary castings and the frame was difficult to produce. With its triple top tubes having to be precisely bent and welded into place, I can imagine that this frame kept some Trek folks up late at night worrying that they might have a load of misaligned frames on their hands. What is more, it has a split drive side drop out, which is one of the trickest belt compatibility solutions I've ever seen. Had this been a NAHBS one-off custom, it would have been a very popular rig. But it got stuck with a Trek head tube badge and that pretty much killed the "cool factor" right there. Many Sawyers, which were about $1500.00 retail, ended up selling at a grand or even less by 2013 just so dealers could clear them out.

So, like I say, I had this thing setting around so I began to play with it. I had an older Fisher with a 100mm Fox fork, a G2 geometry fork, so I put it on the Sawyer. Then I swapped the geared set up to a Gates Center Track for another review of those parts. Along the way, I had trouble getting comfortable with the gangly, high, and akward Sawyer. It was like a teenager that hadn't matured into its overly large feet and hands. It just never set well with me, and although I was, (and still am) in love with the look, I could never reconcile with how this bike felt despite multiple changes to it. The stock set up seemed to be far better, so I purposed to go back to that to see what I was screwing up with what I had been doing to this bike.

So, the whole 27.5+ thing started blowing up in 2013, and I got sent a set of WTB Trailblazer 2.8"ers to try out. The Sawyer was a perfect candidate for the wheels. I knew people had shoe-horned 29+ wheels into Sawyers, so the clearances were there. The bottom bracket, in a choice made by Trek/Fisher in what I am sure was an influence from Gary himself, was made to have almost zero drop. Putting slightly smaller diameter wheels on the Sawyer would be okay then.

The wheels seemed tailor made for the Sawyer. For the first time the bike seemed "right". I actually had a ton of fun with it set up with the 27.5+ wheels. But I ended up choosing to go with these wheels on the Fargo, which, for a time, proved to be a great choice as well. The Sawyer, in the meantime, languished in the corner of The Lab where it was doomed to sit until I either sold it or got some 27.5+ wheels for it. I never was motivated to build up another 27.5+ set up, so instead, I almost sold the Sawyer a couple of months ago.

Then the realization that I may want a Ti Fargo more than two steel ones came along. I sold the Gen 2 frame and fork, and the wheels were suddenly available again, so.... Now I am planning on keeping this bike around.

Now you know the rest of the story.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

5 Things I Learned From Mountain Biking

Riding single track can teach you a lot of bike skills.
The innergoogles loves it when you post a title with a number in it, and marketers say that "list posts" are some of the most read posts. Whatever. I don't care. So, for no other sane reason than I just want to write about this, here we go with some things I've learned and valued along the way that came from my mountain biking experiences.

1: Look Where You Want To Go, Not Where You Don't: This sounds so simple it is crazy, but think about some crashes you have maybe had in your cycling. Many times that drop off, that rut, that bad pot hole, we look at it and we go right in to it. Bang! Crash!

The trick isn't to ignore things like that, but to identify them as hazards, and then look where you do want to go. Because if you keep an eye on that hazard, it will bite you. Look beyond the things you want to stay away from, focus on the good line. This is especially true for gravel road riding.

2: Arms & Legs Are Suspension Devices: Long ago all mountain bikes were rigid. Both ends. This meant that you either learned how to deal with trail irregularities or you crashed a lot and broke stuff regularly. This also meant that if you didn't want to crash and burn "you had ta get yer butt offa tha saddle and absorb them bumps wit da arms and tha legs". (Regards to the "Old Coot") Yes, arms were suspension and so were your legs.

Even today I lighten my pressure in the saddle whenever I see bumpy terrain by using my arms and my legs. You also use your core, but let's not get all technical here. You get the picture. I learned this from mountain biking on rigid mtbs in the early 90's. Still pays dividends today.

3: Go Low On The Air: Before there were fat bikes or tubeless tires, you had to learn how to play with air pressures as a mountain biker. Too high and you were washing out in corners, getting bucked and bumped all over the place, and rattling your eyeballs out. Too low and you were folding tires over in corners, pinch flatting on rocks, and denting rims. It was a delicate balancing act that, if you got it right, meant that your shred was stellar. Mountain biking taught me that tire pressures were never meant to be "as high as the tire sidewall said you could go". In fact, I almost always disregarded those recommendations. I still go as low as I can on gravel for the best ride quality, traction, and best rolling resistance characteristics.

Lessons learned from mountain biking. Here I am using really low pressures at the 2015 DK200. Arms and legs for suspension. Image by A Andonopoulous
 4: Check Your Fasteners Regularly: Having a rigid mountain bike taught me that things can and will vibrate loose over time. Important stuff like stem bolts, crank arm bolts, and rack or fender bolts all can work loose and if you do not check them regularly, you could be in for a big surprise someday. I find that gravel riding is actually worse than it ever was for mountain biking in this area.

5: Shift Early- Shift Often: This is one that I repeated to myself all during the "DK My Way" ride about a month ago. It is also one I violate the most because, well........single speeding! I gotta learn when to not think like a single speeder.Which is tough, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, shift a lot and do it before you get a ton of pressure on the pedals.

Back in the early days of mountain biking, before shift ramps and pins, and Di2, you had to have some serious shifting skills. That or you'd be in the wrong gear a lot. Because if you didn't "let up" a bit on the pedals, spin a decent cadence, and if you waited too long before you got into that hill, you were single speeding! That old 18 speed triple drive train wasn't going to shift! So, you learned to "shift early" and you shifted a lot, or you were wasting energy. That still holds true today. Shifting early means less pressure on the chain, less wear and tear, and less chances for breaking the chain. Which, if you hadn't noticed lately, has gotten a lot thinner than it used to be. Plus, shifting early and often takes less of a toll on your body. 

There is my list. I have learned more than this from mountain biking, but those are the things that came to mind first. So there!


Monday, June 19, 2017

The New SIR 9 From Niner

Niner Bike's new SIR 9- The "what the El Mariachi should be like" bike.
Niner Bikes announced a new SIR 9 bike today. The steel hard tail is an evolution of their first model which was introduced in 2005. This new SIR 9 is more in the "modern geometry" vein and also sports the ability to be a 27.5+ bike or a straight up 29"er bike. They also figured that most folks that have a hankerin' for a steel 29"er hard tail probably will also be inclined to do a bit of "bikepacking" (read- bike camping) and Niner added a bunch of braze on points for hard mounted frame bags.

This all makes sense. Steel frames are regarded as being tough and up to the task of the back country cyclist. Hard tails eschew the complications of a full suspension bike. Plus, many regard hard tails as being more efficient, especially for touring/bikepacking/bike camping. The SIR 9 started out as Niner's flagship XC oriented hard tail SS/geared bike. The times have changed and so Niner offered up an update of this iconic model.

Interestingly, I find that Niner's evolution of the SIR 9 stands in stark contrast to what Salsa Cycles did when they ditched off their legacy steel hard tail model, the El Mariachi, in favor of a low end spec, aluminum hard tail dubbed the Timberjack. Many thought that Salsa would update their El Mariachi, steel hard tail 29"er, to be a "plus bike" compatible rig and that they would update the bike to "modern geometry" standards. Much like what Niner has done with the SIR 9.

The reinforced chain stay yoke that Niner developed for the SIR 9 is very complex and an interesting solution.
 Oddly enough, the Salsa Cycles Timberjack is not really even in the same vein as the former El Mariachi. It then seems rather ironic that Niner Bikes has upstaged Salsa in regards to this sort of bike. The SIR 9 would appear then to be exactly what the former champions of the El Mariachi were hoping to see from Salsa. A trail bike with bike packing as a standard focus. A bike with a short rear/long front center and a slack head angle. Steel tubes and modern amenities.

So, when I see this new SIR 9, I see "what the El Mariachi should have morphed in to". A steel hard tail that could be single speed, geared, and has modern geometry and "adventure by bike" capabilities. Not a rebadged, price point, aluminum tubed, poorly spec'ed model.

At least devotees of the steel hard tail 29"er have a champion in Niner Bikes.


Capping off Father's Day with some fellow Dads.
So, while many of you reading this may not be fathers, I am. It is a distinct honor, privilege, and responsibility that I do not take lightly or for granted. I am beyond humbled, stoked, and blessed to be a "father" to two children and to represent being a father to a few others in this World.

So, bike riding, while an awesome activity, and central to who I am as a person, is secondary to being a father. This having been that weekend designated for chaps like myself, I decided to not be selfish and to engage in being the Dad that I am to the two people I have been gifted to be that person to.

It was good, but I did sneak a bicycle ride in. I went for a capper to the weekend that included a fixed gear ramble over to Lark Brewing, a local brewery, and met up with two co-workers of mine from the shop that are also fathers. We traded stories of fatherhood and more over a flite of fine brews and then I aimed my non-coasting rig back to the homestead.

Anyway, all this to say that there are some things in Life more important than cycling, and being honored and entrusted to being a father is one of those more important things. I hope that no father out there feels cheated for having to accept the accolades and/or being the dutiful Dad that this past weekend seeks to impose upon us who are blessed in such a manner.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 23 & 24

The "OG" Twin Six bicycle offering. Made by WaltWorks
After taking up last weekend with my recap of my Kansas ride, we get back on track with a double dose of Minus Ten. Enjoy!

Ten years ago on the blog covering the first two weeks of June I had been allowed to talk, finally, about a bike I had been aware of for months. Twin Six's first frame and fork offering, the "CustomStock".

It was welded up by WaltWorks in Colorado and looked great. Had I not already had two custom projects in the works there is a really good chance I would have ended up with one of these bikes. Actually, I did end up with a set of wheels meant as spec for one of these frames. But the bike would have been awesome.

More importantly for this review, this T-6 frame and fork offering set off a firestorm of critique based upon how "custom/semi-custom frames and forks are rip-offs" by the keyboard jockeys of the day. This prompted a week long series about "Custom vs Production" posts here on the blog. I re-read that and I think it is something worth revisiting here. Stay tuned on that.......

In another interesting post, I talk about the ways that events like the Kokopelli Trail Race and other, ultra-endurance, off-road, under-the-radar type events were getting shut down by the BLM and government rules and regulations. I talked about how that could be spread to affect events like Trans Iowa. Perhaps this too might be worth revisiting as a topic here......

Finally, there was a two post string at the end of this time period ten years ago about "killing the blog". Not my blog! I was talking about the trend of many endurance based and grassroots cyclists who had started blogging but had found the burden of content creation too much to bear. Blogging really got cranked up in the early 00's and reached a zenith of sorts by 2007. I think ever since then it hasn't been the same.Certainly there are some solid cycling based blogs out there, but the salad days of blogging are long gone.

I haven't got any inclination to stop writing here just yet, so don't get yer hopes up!.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday News And Views

Massively dusty out there.....
 How 'Bout Dat Heat?:

Since the DK200 it has been waaaay hot and very dry in the Mid-West. Uncommon for here and especially at this time of the year. It made for some very DK-like conditions when we factored in the wind up here where I live.

So, there have been days where the wind had been gusting to 35-40mph and the air temperatures were in the upper 90°'s. I don't mind a little wind, but combined with that hot, dry air, it was too much. I sat out several days of riding in the country due to that.

Then I have been battling a fatigue issue as well. I am not sure if I allowed myself proper recovery time after the DK trip. I was falling asleep almost uncontrollably several times in the afternoons last week. I've taken a few days to just rest, and with the recent heat, I think I made a good choice there. Now just Wednesday we got a break and received over an inch of much needed rain. Hopefully we will be coming out of this super hot and dry pattern for a bit!

All said, I did manage to get out on a couple rides in the country lately. Not much to see though what with all the dry air and heat knocking the vegetation and crops for a loop. I did see some dust devils and there was copious amounts of gravel dust, of course. The rain should have that knocked down for a day, at least!

The new WTB Resolute. Image by Abner Kingman
New WTB Tire Inspired By Trans Iowa:

Yesterday the news broke about a tire from WTB for gravel dubbed the Resolute. Readers of the blog here may recall that I had a picture of this tire up that I took at the DK200 expo the Friday before the event. So, here now is a bit of back story that I can share now that this tire is "official". This will show you how the bicycle industry works (or not) behind the curtains, so to speak. So, please allow me to explain, as briefly as I can, why the Resolute was seen before its planned release.

Of course, first and foremost these companies need to make money to stay viable and employ people. So, the bigger money is in selling brands your tire (or whatever) to spec on new bicycle models being produced. This is called "OE spec" in the industry. (Original Equipment spec) Of course, WTB tries to get as much of that as they can. For this new tire, I have heard that WTB was pretty successful in gaining some spec with the new Resolute. Again, we all know that components have to be sold far ahead of the release of new models so that when the time comes you can actually purchase said bicycles with (hopefully) the proper spec components. Well, there was a 2018 bike in the DK expo with 2018 spec. Yep..... We were not supposed to have seen that bike yet. It had 650B Resolutes mounted up.

Well, the good folks at WTB about choked on their lunch that Friday when they saw their "as yet to be announced" tire on my blog. I was asked politely not to talk anymore about said tire, which was easy for me to do, because I didn't know anything more about it than what I saw. For instance, I did not know there was a 700c X 42mm version coming, or that the 700c version was skinwall, (yay!), or anything about the design, other than a guess. Well, anyway, it turns out that some over eager product manager sent out a 2018 sample to show at the DK200 expo and that person didn't think about product release dates and marketing plans for companies represented by their bike's spec.


Well, that's all water under the dam now, but I wanted to show how this kind of thing happens. It isn't the first time it has happened either. I recall an incident with Niner Bikes and WTB at Interbike one year......... but that's another story. 

Twin Six Introduces New Color For The Standard Rando: So, y'all know I really like my Twin Six Standard Rando bike. It rides really well, and it is stable in loose gravel, unlike many other bikes, due to its low 75mm bottom bracket drop. Sure, it has its drawbacks. For one, in 700c, it cannot handle the bigger tires due to clearance issues. It doesn't have a third water bottle cage mount, (I understand newer ones do?), and unlike the Ti Standard Rando, they didn't put two cage mounts on the inside of the triangle on the down tube. But other than those quibbles, I really like that bike.

Well, now they offer it in blue. I really like this color. I would really like to have a Standard Rando in blue. But.......I already have a green one. (See the image above) The one I have is certainly enough, but wouldn't it be cool if somehow you could pass your bike through some ray emitter or a filter and it would change its color? That would be pretty awesome.

Or maybe it wouldn't. Maybe I'd spend 30 minutes trying to decide if I felt all blue, red, or orange, and then I'd have 30 minutes less to ride. So, yeah........on second thought. 

Have a great weekend, and ride those bikes,if you can!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thinning The Herd

This frame and fork will be going bye-bye.....
So, I have this frame and fork I need to move along. Maybe I've fallen ill, or maybe it is because it is raining as I write this and I am bored, or maybe I am not in my right mind, but yes......

The Gen 2 Fargo frame and fork, (only), are going to be offered up for sale.

Okay, before y'all get fired up and start typing me e-mails about parts- None of the components from the build you see here are for sale! Only the frame and fork, along with the headset, because in my mind, that is part of the frame set. But anyway- don't even ask about the wheels and tires. They are already going on another bike I have. The Cowchippers are staying with me. The ti seat post is already in another bike. Got it?

Just the frame and fork folks. That's it.

Now, with that out of the way, here is why.....

Me on the Gen 2 Fargo at Odin's Revenge. Image by L Trullinger
I haven't ridden the Gen 2 Fargo in over a year. That's a tragedy, and a waste of a good bike. I need to find someone who will use this frame and fork and love it. It is an awesome rig, but if I am not using it, it has to go. Just like the Singular Gryphon, which I wasn't riding, and sold to a happy new owner, I hope this frame and fork find its "happy new owner" soon.

Then there is the thing I've always wanted, and that is to find a Ti Fargo. That's a "grail" bike for me, but it really makes no sense to get a Ti Fargo when I have two Fargos sitting here and one that I never ride anymore. Reason to move said Fargo gets even stronger......

I never used this frame and fork as I had intended, which was as a geared mountain bike with a suspension fork. That was my intention going in to this, but it never really worked out that way. That pretty much nails all the reasons I want to sell this frame and fork.

So, that is news, and if you are wondering, this is on my "Garage Sale" page now. If you are interested or are curious, shoot me an e-mail. It's a size Large, by the way.

I probably won't get one of these. They are all gone......
So, looking forward, a Ti Fargo is in my future. Just what year model and all is not known. I have a line on a '15 in my size, but I'll have to do some negotiating on that one. So, it is a possibility that this happens sooner than later.

The reasoning here is that titanium rides better, (yes, it really does), and for how I use a Fargo, (gravel, adventure, bad weather, frame bags, etc), titanium makes sense. I hope to get one with Alternators for that bail out possibility and for a possible internal gear set up at some point.

So, there you have it. This isn't probably "thinning the herd" as much as it is a looking to "trade up", but there are no guarantees I'll end up where I want to be in terms of a Ti Fargo. I do mean to get the steel Gen 2 Fargo into someone elses hands though. So, for now, I am going with the "thinning the herd" theme until further notice!

And there will be more future "herd thinning". Some in terms of retired service bikes and some for sale. I may end up with some odds and ends for sale too. I just look around at my stuff and see "too much" in several areas. I have to address that. It isn't good to have a lot and not use it for something. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Learning The Tandem Dance

Still making modifications to the tandem device.......
There is this thing called a tandem bicycle. I wanted one so that I could introduce my bicycle resistant daughter to the joys of cycling. She wasn't too thrilled about solo travel, but sitting behind Dad? She was okay with that idea after I sold her on the "you just have to sit there and pedal" deal. Trouble was, I didn't have a tandem.

That got solved last year when a very gracious and kind gentleman by the name of Bruce Brown stepped up and offered a Raleigh tandem to me on a "permanent loan" basis to further the cause of getting my daughter to the point that she could enjoy cycling with the family. So far, it has been a success story.

But we're still working on it.

There is a certain "dance" to tandem riding. Tandem owners all over that are reading this are probably all wagging their heads at my realization of this fact. You simply do not just "ride" a tandem. I can see the meme for that clearly! Anyway, it has been a revelatory experience for me. My daughter? She doesn't know anything else. For her, everything is "normal". Ha! If she only knew!

The first thing, as a "captain", that you need to do is to communicate. Yep. Got that right away. Shifting! Bump coming! Stopping! Coasting! Pedal! ......On and on. My daughter is really great at following my lead.

But I figured out something else just the other day. I was coming out of a tight corner with my daughter on the tandem while we were testing out a new saddle for her. The kind of slow speed corner that kills your momentum and might cause you to dab a foot type of thing. We were coasting. I thought, like a single rider, "Whoops! Too slow, too high a gear. Gonna be tough not to dab.....". Then I thought, "Pedal!". Oh yeah.....PEDAL! I called out the command. The "turbo boost" from my daughter righted the ship and we powered out of that corner like a motorcycle. That was fun.

I had us do it about six more times before calling it a night.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunks Reviewed

Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunk in the XL size here.
Banjo Brothers is a Minneapolis based concern that sells quality bags for bicycles at reasonable prices. The shop where I work has carried their line for years and I also have used their products previously to great success. They are good eggs, those Banjo Brothers. Not sure they actually pick a banjo or not, but the bags.... Nice.

So, this is a review of two versions of the Waterproof Saddle Trunk. The regular version I've had since last year, the XL version I've had now since early Spring. Both saddle trunks are made similarly, it is just that one is much larger in capacity than the other. I bet you can't guess which one is bigger. (!!)

Anyway, here is the lowdown on each model.
  • Designed to fit on nearly any bike
  • Webbing loop on top for attaching a rain jacket or other gear (XL version only)
  • Waterproof main compartment
  • Outer pockets offer easy access to contents
Each model features a removable PVC-ish liner that attaches via snaps  and that is the "waterproof" part of the bag. This is nice since you can get it out to clean it or remove it to lighten the bag for times you don't need the waterproof feature. I suppose it also allows you to wash the fabric part of the bag easier as well. The "outer pockets" on these are minimalist. Don't expect to put much of anything in them. A key? Yes. Maybe some money? Yes. The main idea here is the cavernous interior which can swallow a lot of cargo.

The "regular" sized Waterproof Saddle Trunk. As seen on my Ti Mukluk
The "Regular" sized waterproof Saddle Trunk was used all Winter on my Ti Mukluk. I could get a nice amount of stuff in it,despite its size. A fat bike tube, (Really big!), an extra layer, and a pair of over mittens all would fit in there fine along with a mini pump and some tools.

The "XL" bag is more like a Tour Divide, "let's get away" type of a deal, in my mind. It is ginormous. I can easily put rain pants, a rain jacket, a tube, a repair kit, and some odds and ends in there and I still have room to spare. This is the bag to get if you have to haul a change of clothes to work, or if you want to carry an iced down 12'er to the fire works display. The waterproof liner will allow that.

Both models feature roll tops that close via straps and snap buckles. The bags attach via straps with plastic buckles and a hook and loop strap that goes around the seat post. The straps are adjustable, and I can cinch down the load and get kinda rowdy without the bags wagging around back there very much. They move, for sure, but I don't notice it while riding. For the money, I don't see any issues with that facet of these bags at all.

I used the regular sized Waterproof Saddle Bag all Winter
So, one is bigger than the other. Cubic inches don't mean much to me. I took some images to maybe help you figure it out. As stated above, I believe the XL would be best suited for bike camping, bike packing, or for a 12er of beer.

One is Regular, one is "XL". Guess which is which. Sidewalk is 4ft wide for reference.
The liners snap out for easy cleaning.

Each model is reinforced with plastic and aluminum.
Okay, so there are a few images for reference here. The liners are heavy PVC-like material and have snaps at the mouth of the bag which allows you to remove them and replace them with ease. There are a number of things this allows you to do, so use your imagination. The number one thing that came to my mind was that this makes for an easier clean-up and maintenance of these trunk bags should be a snap. (Pardon the pun.) Notice the sewn on loops of fabric at the back flap of the bag? Those are for a blinkie. You use the one facing rearward depending upon how much you roll the back end shut.

 I will admit that I have used and I own other seat trunks/bike packing seat bags and this Banjo Brothers stuff is by far the heaviest. That is not necessarily a bad thing either. I'll get to that in a bit. However; first off I will give you the hard numbers. The XL Waterproof Saddle Trunk weighs 730 grams total, 610 grams without the liner. The Regular Waterproof  Saddle Trunk comes in at 510 grams and 430 grams sans liner.

Impressions: The plastic inner liner makes for the waterproof characteristics of each model here and I can say that this characteristic is true in usage. The Regular saddle trunk went through an entire Winter's worth of snow, rain, and slushy commuting here without as much as a drop of moisture entering the bag or affecting its contents. I am quite satisfied that I could ride in most anything and have dry contents using either bag. The negative to the liner is that it adds weight and rolling the opening shut is a bit more difficult because the two layers- inner and outer bag- make the combination stiffer to handle. You can get the job done, but it takes a bit more patience than it does with high end saddle bags for bike packing.

Although the XL bag is big and long, I found it to be rather stable.
There are a couple of plastic, rectangular rings on the top side of the XL bag that allow you to lash on extra cargo. Maybe a rain jacket, or baguette would go there for you. It is a nice option for that item that you want to carry but don't have the room inside the trunk for to get it home.

The bags can be loaded up and cinched down tightly so that the cargo doesn't cause the trunk to sway or move much at all. Kudos to the reinforcements that Banjo Brothers added to the bags to give them structure. This decision makes extra external stabilizing straps unnecessary and simplifies the trunks so that they are easier to mount on a bike and to use. Yes, it adds weight, but in general, ease of use and performance of the saddle trunk trumps a super light weight saddle trunk for me. I happen to own one, a lightweight bike packing unit, and it has worse stability and is more fussy to use. Consider also that the XL Waterproof Saddle Trunk goes for around $65.00 and the Regular sized one for about $45.00, and you can see that you get a lot of bang for the buck here. Other seat packs run $125.00 and up.

Conclusions: The Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunks are good values. You get a product that is durable, easy to use, and does what it promises. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get into these but don't expect a lightweight, super-featured bag here. These are simple, "get er dun" type bags that will allow you to be hauling stuff or maybe trying out bikepacking for little cash outlay. Sometimes that is more than enough. I'd wager most times it is.

Note: I bought one of these bags with my own damn money and the other was sent to me to review by Banjo Brothers at no charge. I was not paid nor bribed for this review and I strive to give my honest thoughts throughout.

Monday, June 12, 2017

My History With "Twenty Nine Inches"

Wes Williams, a 29"er pioneer, and myself at Interbike
First things first. Twenty Nine Inches, as a site, is done. On the passing of that site I thought I would share my history with it. The whole deal I had with Twenty Nine Inches began here and was an outgrowth of this, the Guitar Ted Productions blog. I was writing about 29"ers here and getting news and tips on gear before I ever wrote for another site. Lately I have been recapping the history of that and of this site in my sort of weekly "Minus Ten Review" posts. You can check those out if you care to. The following is a personal recollection and my personal opinions on the history I have with Twenty Nine Inches. This does not necessarily reflect the opinions or recollections of others. So, as always....

NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

The Twenty Nine Inches site, (here after referred to as "TNI"), was started by a guy named Tim Grahl. Tim had several cycling related sites, but first and foremost he was an opportunist. He had a rather successful blog/website called "Blue Collar Mountain Bike" which was documenting he and a friends first forays into the world of off road cycling. Basically, these guys were total noobs and they were stumbling through the learning process of mountain biking openly on-line. This brought them a ton of attention from opportunistic marketing wonks who saw an avenue to tell their product story via a "real" and "honest" pair of budding cyclists. Grahl saw an opportunity to get money and product via other cycling based ideas as well. So, he observed that 29"ers were a new and upcoming force in the cycling world. He also noted that I seemed to be a big fan of 29"ers and knew a lot about what was going on with them. Of course, being new to the scene, Grahl did not have the credibility or background knowledge necessary to speak to this new audience. That's where I came in.

As I have said here, I wasn't looking for more opportunities to write. I was already doing reviews and writing for a site called "The Biking Hub", where I learned basic principles of writing for an audience and gained a framework for doing reviews from a guy who had a journalism background. Basically, I was learning a craft and gaining experience, otherwise I wouldn't have engaged with the "Biking Hub" at all. I simply wasn't interested in becoming anything other than a blogger. I had two children, at that time they were 4 years and two years old. I wanted to be around to raise them, not gallivanting around chasing down stories in the bicycle industry. I had a decent job as a bike mechanic which I had arranged to work around my family's needs.

Riding a Lenz Sports Lunchbox at Bootleg Canyon during Demo Days for Interbike
So, when Grahl came a knockin' on my door to write for him I was not biting. I didn't want more on my plate, I wanted less. Then the "Biking Hub" began to become more difficult to communicate with. Eventually the site shut down. Meanwhile, Grahl paid for airfare to get me to Interbike where he offered to pay me for writing and reviewing for TNI. Eventually he promised me that I would make the same amount of money I did at the bike shop so I could quit my job and go full time into TNI. That would allow even more "home time" and free me up for travels.

Well, the travels happened. Between '06 and '09, I was gone a lot. But, the dollars never materialized. In fact, Grahl began to falter on promises to others in the "Crooked Cog Network", his collection of other cycling sites, and eventually he bailed out on them all. In the process, he botched up a picture hosting site contract where he had convinced me I should host images, resulting in the loss of many images. You can still see the "empty holes" on this blog from posts dating from '08 and '09. He bailed on advertisers, and eventually was going to shut down TNI and sell it.

Seeing as how I had responsibilities to companies and people concerning reviews and products still ongoing, I convinced Grahl to give me the site at no charge, since he never paid me in accordance with our '06 handshake agreement in Vegas. Reluctantly and with much resisstance on his end, I eventually got the reigns to TNI in 2010, I believe it was. However, basically since the beginning of 2009 I had been running the site. Free of charge. No pay. Nuthin.

Obviously, Grahl was the brains behind the computer end of the sites he ran, what him having a college trained background in computer sciences and all. Me? I was as bad at computers and websites as Grahl was about cycling. Only difference being that I didn't pretend to know anything about computers. I was getting a serious crash course in website operations, and stress levels in 2009-2010 were at an all-time high.

Meeting Gary Fisher in happier times with TNI. Grahl is on the left here.
That's where Grannygear came in. I met him at Interbike, via Jason Boucher, at the Salsa Cycles booth. Some things are pre-ordained, and not a chance happening. I believe meeting GG was just such a moment in my life.

I know that without GG's technical background that I would have shut down TNI at the end of 2010. In the meantime, we got a European contributor in "cg", a German based rider. His skill in reviewing and communication brought TNI a lot of respect. Grannygear, a natural  born communicator, made connections I never dreamed of making. Meanwhile, I took less and less opportunities for travel, passing all that off to GG and cg instead. I got to stay home, like I wanted to, and the TNI site quickly gained its feet back underneath it. Due to GG and cg's efforts and talents, TNI, regained its status as a well respected site. Or at least I'd like to think so.

Then 27.5"ers came along, fat bikes came along, and gravel bikes got to be a thing. TNI wasn't getting the review stuff it used to, and marketing turned away from smaller sites. The entrenched cycling media finally figured out 29"ers and other niche cycling growth areas were not to be ignored, as 29"ers had been for several years. This all conspired to make TNI less of a value to advertisers. While I, nor GG or cg, made anything off the site, at least the money we did get "kept the lights on",  paid for business trips for GG and cg, and sometimes for things necessary like tools and supplies at times that we needed them to put bicycles together and maintain them. But even that got to be thin by 2012.

Then I decided that full time editing after doing bicycle mechanic work by day was getting to be too much. I was translating articles from German, going over GG's submissions, doing my part for TNI, writing this blog, running Trans Iowa, and "Gravel Grinder News", all at the same time. It was too much. I decided that TNI was in good hands and I had done more than my fair share in getting it back to a respectable standing after the trashing Grahl put the site through in '09. It was time to bug out.

So, I did just that at the end of 2014. I joined Ben Welnak and we formed Riding Gravel. I gained a partner well versed in the IT side of sites and a trustworthy business partner that had a proven track record of success with making websites and podcasts make money. Not a lot of money, mind you, but enough to make life doing worth my attention. Something I never got from TNI, nor did Grannygear.

Twenty Nine Inches outlasted its lifespan that it should have had based on the passion and efforts of individuals that cared about the industry and the people that were involved in it, but mostly for the riders out there who read the site and relied on it. We knew it was a worthwhile effort for them. We spent a lot of our own blood, sweat, tears, and suffered a lot of mental anguish working on TNI to make it the best we knew how to. I am proud of my work there, and while it is no longer a thing, I count it a big blessing to have done it. Especially because of the people I connected to through TNI.

I'm not a businessman. I am a story teller, I guess. So, TNI was a big energy suck with little reward beyond the people part I mentioned. How TNI made it to 2017 is an amazing thing. I tip my hat to Grannygear and "cg". To Jeff J, Captain Bob, and anyone else that contributed to our time there at TNI. I am super thankful for every industry contact. You all are much more to me than an opportunity to "get stuff" or gather news. You are all fantastic folks that gave me so much of your precious time, energy, and knowledge. I could never repay any of you for that.

So long Twenty Nine Inches. It was a good ride while it lasted.