Thursday, November 30, 2017

News Flash: Dirty Kanza 200 Registration Opens Friday

To be a part of this scene in 2018, you have to make it through the lottery drawing.
Registration By Lottery For 2018:

A big change is coming for those hoping to jump into, or back into, the Dirty Kanza 200 and its attendant shorter distance events. This change has to do with registration.

In the past registration was conducted on-line, like many other events, but due to the ever increasing pressure from riders to get a chance to ride this event, the on-line way of doing things became untenable. There are just too many folks vying for roster spots which caused issues with the how the on-line process worked. This caused a lot of ill feelings and a bunch of headaches for the promoters of the DK200. It was obvious that a change was necessary.

So, to alleviate any unfairness and ill will due to the registration processes failure to handle the demand, the DK Promotions folks have opted to go with a random selection lottery. The process will still be enacted by riders using an on-line process, but instead of having to hover over your computer at "dark-thirty" waiting to push "enter" with your info, hoping it will beat the thousands of others doing the same thing, you can enter your info at your leisure, starting tomorrow until December 16th.

After the sixteen day window for entering closes, the pool of names will be drawn from to fill the allotted spots for the DK200, 100, 50, and 25 mile options. There is even a way for groups of riders to get in. Check it all out HERE.

So, if you have a mind to enter, get your info submitted starting tomorrow.

Bonus Days

Sunny, reasonably warm, means it's testing time!
The November heat is still going strong here and that means I have to get to riding while the riding is good. The recent addition of the Vittoria Terreno series tires to the mix here has come at a time when I usually am winding down my reviewing end of things here. But not this year, and the weather is cooperating.

We're back to the super-dry, drought like conditions were were in a while back again. Creeks and rivers are crazy low. The gravel is super dusty. There aren't many places that haven't had another layer of gravel added at a time of year when fresh gravel is really odd to see. At least the roads aren't iced up or too snowy!

Like I say, it is warm for November this late in the month. 50's, high 40's, and it stays above freezing some nights. The only atmospheric hurdle I have right now is the wind. It is cranking most days. Yesterday it was out of the South and I was crawling to get far enough South of town to hit Petrie Road to do a bit of B Road testing. But the wind isn't so bad as long as the air is warm, and you don't freeze to death.

That the days are so nice this late into the year, I have to consider them "bonus days" to get this stuff reviewed and get that out of the way before it gets too cold or whatever. If that happens I just shut down the reviewing end here till Spring. It is kind of a drag when that happens, but I do live in Iowa, and things get dicey this time of year with the weather. Unless it is like it is now, of course!

A Black Mountain Cycles sunburst!
The other odd thing is that the days are short. It starts getting dark around 4pm now, so I really have only a few hours where it works for me to get something tested and ridden. The mornings are often too cold, the afternoons can be cut short due to low light, so to get the best conditions for riding and imaging, I have a shorter window of opportunity now.

It is looking like we are going to close out the week with this nicer weather, at least, so I'll be trying to make hay while the hay is good. With any luck, I'll have just about everything I need to get done in a few more good rides. We'll see!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

News Flash: Niner Bikes Files For Bankruptcy

An early Niner RIP-9: The company is reportedly being sold to an investor group.
A surprising story broke today by "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" states that Niner Bikes has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy ahead of a planned sale to an investment company. The move is claimed to help expedite the the sale in the "...cleanest and fastest way to do it.", according to company co-founder, Chris Sugai.  

Of course, Niner Bikes made their name on the 29 inch wheel, which they famously championed early on and stuck with doggedly although 650B wheels and plus sized wheels became more popular within the last five years. The company even stayed out of the fat bike craze, much to their credit, I might add.

So, was this devotion to a single wheel size killing the company? Apparently not. According to "BRaIN", in this story published today, Niner stands in good stead financially. However; it appears that they cannot fund new R&D, new product lines, and yes, that means e-mtbs, which are the hottest selling bicycle in Europe by a long shot right now.

Added to this is that I have read or heard somewhere that Niner sells more of its gravel/all road/CX bike product than it does the mountain bike stuff. This isn't due to a dogged devotion to 29"ers, but most likely it is just what the article in "BRaIN" is saying- a lack of engineering and product development capabilities. This hinders growth and innovation on their mtb side, and also it affects the ability to diversify. (So, yes, maybe Niner is thinking they cannot compete the way they want to with the limited array of products they offer now.)

Interestingly, the "BRaIN" article closed out with this quote from the Chapter 11 filing:

"With a recapitalized balance sheet, the Debtor will be able to, among other things, hire the engineers and product managers necessary to design bikes for women, to begin offering kid’s models, to create electric mountain bikes, and continue to increase models with different wheel sizes. The Debtor also believes that by enlarging their omnichannel footprint they will be able to increase brand awareness and engagement, ultimately leading to substantial revenue growth."

Note the word "omnichannel". Of all the things coming out of this news story, this reflects what I think is going to be the most weighty of impacts. Not only for Niner's future, but the cycling industry as a whole. We won't be buying cycling stuff in the way that we once did anymore, nor in the way we think will will. It's going to look radically different before all is said and done.

Still, as I posted earlier today, it is the "pie" that needs growing, not the "how you sell it" that needs fixing so much. Unless the industry can entice people to ride by making safe places to use bicycles, then how you try to sell them will not make much difference.

Chasing "The Next Big Thing" Is The Worst Thing For Cycling

A Schwinn Collegiate from an old Schwinn catalog
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned....

I used to have a job as a jeweler where I sat at a bench making, fixing, and designing jewelry next to a man that was a good friend of mine. He was married, I was not. I wasn't in any hurry to get engaged either. He thought I was being complacent. He said I was like a catfish, waiting for whatever came downstream. He thought I needed to be more proactive in finding a mate. It caused no end of discussions between us.

Well, that may seem like an odd story to bring up to lead into a story about cycling, but the industry has, for decades, been like me in the 1980's. Slow or just not about looking for "mates". The cycling industry wasn't proactive, and it hasn't been very much good at getting out there and trying to find cyclists until recently. What it has done is to sit complacently and react, for the most part.

Take the 70's bike boom. The catalyst for the massive uptick in bicycle sales during that time was not a result of creative efforts of the cycling industry. It was a reaction to demand which was brought on by the fuel crisis of 1973 and the fitness boom. Then, after millions of bikes were sold, did the industry advocate for ways and places to use them? No. They just raked in cash and thought it was going to last forever, one would think.

Later, about a decade later, some enterprising Californians decided that off road cycling was fun, and that bicycles built on a mass production scale were a good idea. Grassroots growth caused a sector to flower called "mountain biking". It was a "fad" some industry pundits said wouldn't last. It wasn't picked up right away by some of the bigger companies in cycling, and in the end, they were wrong. Obviously.....because they eventually made these bikes all about racing.

Then a thing called "free riding" came along, an offshoot of mountain biking that was more about having fun. It eschewed the then NORBA type bikes and racing culture for that of one based upon back country riding and "fun". (Imagine that. Fun, like the late 70's mtb'ers were having, perhaps?) This morphed into the long travel mtb scene which was dominated by smaller companies, not the big three, not until much later. Meanwhile a counter-culture based on single speed mountain bikes was bubbling along, largely ignored by the cycling industry. Added to this was the beginnings of the 29"er craze, a grassroots driven move toward bigger diameter wheels. None of these things were picked up on by the cycling industry who were content to keep pushing out the same old 26"er designs and road bikes, both based upon racing styles.

Then we had "The Lance Effect". Nuff said.....

29"ers were resisted by many companies until they reacted to Trek/Gary Fisher's success with them.
The cycling industry finally did react, but not to all of those movements, especially after road bike sales started to fade. With the huge shift that 29"ers brought, it kind of stuck the industry in overdrive to find "the next big thing". Remembering the halcyon days of the bike boom of the 70's and the early  to mid-90's mtb boom, and the fading road bike sector in America, the industry reached for anything it could to recreate another boom. No way were they going to miss out again like many companies did on 29"ers.

This has led to "knee jerk" reactions in the industry which have led to over-saturation of product, consumer misunderstanding, and a general mistrust of anything actually good and new in the industry. The first haymaker the industry threw was fat bikes. Then when that bubble burst they sent up the 27.5"er long travel bikes, or "enduro" rigs. When that didn't take off all over the industry jumped on "plus" sized tires, and then gravel/all-road bikes. What was going to be next?

E-bikes, that's what. Specifically, e-mtbs. But once again, while sales numbers are reported to be wildly successful, you can bet your bottom dollar that just like all the other "next big things", this one will have the rug pulled out from under it too.

The e-mtb is what the industry is betting on now.
Thinking about mountain bikes, the industry should thank and continue to support the institutions that are keeping mountain biking alive. Without IMBA, several local associations, and newer developments like NICA, mountain biking access, and therefore the sport, may have faded away years ago. What's weird is that the industry doesn't get more behind how and where people ride other bikes. There have been efforts here and there, but for a long time the cycling industry sat on their hands and did nothing to help.

Then one could also say that with all the "every butt on a bike" sloganeering going on, that the industry is really pretty hypocritical. "Every butt"? Really? Then why all the misogyny? Where are we reaching out to women? Where are we trying to reach out to minorities? I'm not seeing the industry doing much here.

The industry needs to quit chasing "the next big thing" in cycling gear and start shrinking things back to sensible levels. I read a great line on Jonathan Fields Twitter feed yesterday, it said, "More isn't better, better is better. And, that often means less." Make better bikes, simpler choices, and infuse them with more value. 

 Stop chasing the next niche and create places and a culture people want to be a part of, not more models of the same old bikes, not "the next big thing" in cycling. Stop making everything about racing and make it more about the "everyman". It isn't sexy, nor does it appeal to machismo, and it certainly wouldn't fit "The Rules". But do it anyway. Don't sit around reacting to trends, don't wait to see what happens, but create the atmosphere where things can happen. 

Maybe the industry need one of those rants my old jeweler friend used to give me!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Bikes Of 2017: Raleigh Tamland 2

It is that time of year when I start reviewing the bikes that got me through 2017. Many of these bikes have been tweaked and changed so I will talk about that and why they were important to me this past year.

Yep, another familiar face here. The Raleigh Tamland 2 has been a good rig for me over the years. I was amused recently when one of you commented here that the only thing original to the bike anymore is the frame and fork. Well, you could be forgiven for thinking as much, but while that is close, it isn't quite the case.

Just for the record, the frame, fork, head set, bottom bracket, crankset, seat post, and rear derailleur are still stock on this bike. That's not much, granted, but it is a fair amount of the original build! I still have the wheels and I still have the original brakes. I still have the original saddle also.

Speaking of saddles....I finally got what I needed on there after fiddling around with other saddles for a couple of years. The WTB Pure, (Pure V originally), is the bomb for my behind. Love that saddle. Now that this conundrum has been solved, I don't really need anything else different here.

Changes recently have been the Gevenalle HYDRAULIC brake system and the Ritchey Venturemax bar. These items were added as test items for review on and have been so good they are staying on long term. The brakes also changed up my shifting to the excellent Gevenalle system which also includes the Burd front derailleur. The shifting is so light and precise it is uncanny, and that system is nearly indestructible.

Finally the tires and wheels. I built up these White Industries/WTB i25 KOM wheels last year and these have been awesome wheels. I should build up another set just because. Anyway, I got to test these Trans Iowa inspired treads from WTB, the Resolutes, and they are fantastic on this bike.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Fat Sunday

Sunday I got called in on guitar duty at church at the last minute, so the morning was spent strumming six string and all that goes with that. The afternoon was supposed to be glorious, so I convinced my son, Jacob, that he needed to test that new Race Face green anodized chain ring I recently put on his bike.

He agreed to go as long as we were going to ride to, "the lake, which is what we call that pond out off Martin Road and Highway 63. I think it is Myer's Lake, but I never call it that! It was a good choice because that is where he broke his chain ring on his last ride. Get back on that horse and all that. So, we went out to go around "the lake" and back home again. Not a big ride, but it was something.

I had to stop to switch to "low range" to climb the dike and then we headed off down the single track towards the lake. Jacob biffed after cleaning a rough section since the run out was a hard right turn. I convinced him that his bike would just roll right through if he would just trust it. He was a bit hesitant, but he did let it roll. I think he was so surprised his bike took care of him he forgot to turn until it was too late. No harm- no foul. He'll get it next time.

Jacob contemplating the scenery. Maybe I did something right bringing him out here in the past.
We made it to the water and Jacob insisted we stop so he could take in the view. I certainly wasn't going to stand in the way of doing that, so we chose a spot and he contemplated nature for a bit, until he spotted the sticks. There is something about boys and sticks that is like white on rice. I have witnessed so many youngsters of the male persuasion picking up sticks and tossing them, using them to beat on whatever, or using them as makeshift swords. It's uncanny. I don't remember being fascinated by wooden sticks in quite the same way, but my Dad often made me clean up our yard after windstorms of every branch and twig that fell, so maybe that is where I lost my love of sticks.


Riding the exposed shoreline on my Blackborow DS. Image by Jacob Stevenson
I made a deal with my son. I get to ride some of the exposed shore line/lake bed and he could go on up ahead on the regular trail and take some pictures of me. He obliged, so I went down to the water's edge and crawled along in the soft bed of the lake, now exposed due to the dry conditions here most of the latter half of the year.

There were lots of sunken in foot prints down along the water, but nary a fat bike tread pattern to be found. I find it uncanny. If you have a fat bike and live in this area, why wouldn't you ride it down here? I saw two guys on our way to the lake on the single track using fat bikes. They weren't going anywhere a cross bike couldn't go.

They were doing it wrong.

I mean, if you do not use your fat bike to ride where you cannot ride other bicycles, then you are missing the point entirely. This is what fat bikes were made to do. I tried convincing my son he needed to do this, but he isn't quite there yet.

I'll keep working on him.......

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Turkey Burn Ride Which Was Not Burning Turkey

The invisible part of this image was my main foe. That would be the wind.
There was a long standing tradition here in the cycling community where we would do a "Turkey Burn" ride the Friday after Thanksgiving every year. Usually this was a mountain bike ride in the woods, and eventually it moved to Camp Ingawanis on the "North side" trails.

I don't know when the last one occurred, but it has been several years since we gathered to do this event. I would say it has been five or six years ago, at least. I'm not sure why that is, but I also don't really want to know. It is what it is. Now days I just carry on with my own ride. It's easier that way. I can go out and come in whenever it suits me.

Not that an organized Turkey Burn ride would be a bad thing, but I am also not going to push for that. Too many irons in the fire already. Somebody else can pick up that torch if they want to. But whatever..... On with the ride report!

Of course, I have to say what I did wasn't a "Turkey Burn" ride, since I had ham for Thanksgiving dinner. So, technically it was a "Hamburn Ride", I suppose. Anyway..... I woke up Friday to the temperature flirting with 50°F and heading higher. Yes.... The wind was stiff, out of the South/Southwest, but it was going to be 60°F!! Of course I was going for a gravel ride. I would have been a fool not to, despite the winds. They weren't that bad, but a 20mph, constant in your face wind isn't anything to be sneezed at either.

Resting for a minute or two. The BMC with new Vitorria Terreno Dry tires mounted.
Before I left I actually had to set up a pair of tires tubeless to my HED Ardennes+ rims. I have just received a set of Vittoria Terreno Dry tires for test/review on Riding The set up was a tad messy since one of my valves had a corroded core and I ended up having to swap it out for a new one just before I headed out. With that done, there was nothing holding me back from heading South into the wind.

Once I went out on Aker Road I was struggling to maintain speeds over 10mph against the blast from the Southwest. Everything is super dry, of course, but I was wondering about Petrie Road. It can hold moisture well in a few spots despite a long spell of dry weather. I decided to head on down there and see what was up.

Moisture found. Petrie Road does not disappoint.
It was good. Petrie Road had three muddy spots and the rest was either semi-compacted sandy dirt, churned up sand, or black earth. Pretty much everything in one mile. That out of the way, I headed off North toward home. It was a revelation.

The wind was pushing me along and I was hitting 30 mph easily at times. Funny how that works. The day was warming up too, and I opened up my vest to let in some cooler air. It is late November, but it felt like a fine March day. Only the fact that nearly everything was brown and dead gave away the time of year as being late Fall. I flirted with stripping off my arm warmers, but it wasn't just quite warm enough up here. I heard it got into the 70's in Southern Iowa, and I would have done shirt sleeves in that temperature. Crazy stuff.

That's Hudson, Iowa in the distance.
I made it home eventually and those Vittoria tires? Well, they are pretty dang nice, as I expected them to be. I'll be writing up my impressions on those for Riding Gravel soon, so stay tuned on that front. But before that, I have some other things to attend to, and one more day before I have to get back to the "regular job" to get at that stuff.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 47

The KM got me through four winter's worth of commutes.
Ten years ago I was writing about the end of T.I.v4 registration. There was some relief in having that part of the thing over with. Then I moved on to bicycle stuff. One of the subjects was my 2003 Karate Monkey. I wrote the following about it:

" The bottom bracket is still seized up in the frame."

So, apparently that had happened previously to that post. It was certainly stuck and it ended up causing this bike to get mothballed until last year when I finally was able to break the bottom bracket and saw/pry/grind the bits out of the bottom bracket shell. Four Winter's worth of abuse will do that. Especially snowy, wet Winters. 

I also had just gotten a Velocity Aero Heat wheel set built up for this bike, and if you know how skinny that rim is, you can understand how that was a mistake. I should have gotten Blunts! Oh well. I can still use those wheels on something else someday. I'm thinking along the lines of a single speed gravel rig. But that may not happen. I could always lace those hubs up to my old Salsa Cycles Gordo rims. Those are wiiide! I always liked how tires set up on those rims, if they were wider, mountain bike oriented treads.

A pretty Fisher HiFi
I also took possession of a 2008 Gary Fisher HiFi this week ten years ago. This was for test/review on "Twenty Nine Inches". The good folks at Fisher ended up not wanting it back, so I actually still have it. Well, most of it, anyway. The bike actually got parted out and most of the stuff is spread across other bikes now.

The HiFi, and the G2 Fishers ushered in a new way of looking at 29"er geometry. After the slightly slackened, longer offset front ends appeared, the next bit was to bring the rear length in check. Once that happened the things about the first wave of 29"er geometry quickly melted away as bikes got slacker, shorter in the rear/center, and longer front centered. Stems shrank in accordance as wider handle bars also became the norm. Now even this HiFi looks weird. Not "new" as it did ten years ago, but "archaic" in terms of what is popular today.

I could get this bike back together again pretty easily. I have most everything I'd need to do that, but then again, why? Until I can answer that, it stays on the peg in the dungeon. I do like that it is one of the last true Gary Fisher mountain bike models made. So, I am hanging on to it because of that, but if I rebuilt it, I wouldn't build it as stock. Also, many of these bikes ended up breaking swing arms. This one never fell to that fate, but.......

Friday, November 24, 2017

Appetite Seminar- Fat Bike Style

The ultimate low impact machine
Back in 1975 a bunch of folks grabbed their 1 speed bikes and rode Thanksgiving Day to amp up their appetite for dinner that day. Or something along those lines. You can read the history of that ride here.

So, I decided I would have my own, solo, "Appetite Seminar" ride on Thanksgiving Day this year. I decided to run the Blackborow DS and go the length of the Green Belt and back. That should work up a good appetite for what Mrs. Guitar Ted was cooking up. We don't run on a "regular schedule" around here, so my ride began just before noon.

I was blessed to ride under Sunny skies with little to no wind. It was, for a Thanksgiving Day, perfect. Typically we have pretty gloomy weather around this time of year with more clouds than Sun. But yesterday was an exception and it was also a bit warmer than usual as well. The Green Belt was primo. Dry-ish with a bit of wetness due to frost coming up. So, no excuses. I rode the entire length of the Green Belt plus some of the "spurs" to the main trails.

On the way over I switched from "high" range to "low" on the Dinglespeed transmission. I figured that for most of what I would be riding that low range would be unnecessary, but for the few parts of the trail that it was, I wouldn't have to get off and walk.

I rode a few sand bars where I could. This is actually Black Hawk Creeks river bed.
The paved bike trail goes over the trail here. This was an old rail road line's bridge.
The area is pretty dry again. This isn't good long term for us, but it does provide for some unique riding opportunities. Sand bars, parts of the Black Hawk Creek river bed, and the lake/pond shore line over by Highway 63 all become rideable areas. It is perfect for a fat bike as most of this is fine, packed in sand. Fat bikes were made for such a surface.

The turn around at Shaulis Road.
The pond off Marky-Mark shows a little icing over.
The ride went well, I cleaned all the obstacles due to the use of the "low" range, and I made it home in time for the big feast. The "Appetite Seminar" was a success. I made a big appetite for myself. Mrs. Guitar Ted made a great meal, and the family was satisfied.

Hopefully all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your roads be smooth and safe this weekend!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Guitar Ted Productions wishes you and yours a Happy Holiday and hopefully some great riding as well to burn off that feast you ate, (or are about to eat.).

This year I'm sticking around the G-Ted ranch and spending time with my family.

I'll be back again tomorrow with a post, so stay tuned. Once again, thank you for checking in and reading the scribin' here.  It is much appreciated. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Special Edition News And Views

Imagine that this actually says "Donnelly" and not Clement.
Donnelly MSO 50mm Tire:

When it has been possible, I have been riding this MSO tire. You might say, "big deal!", and I wouldn't blame you if it was a 40mm or smaller MSO. But it isn't a 40mm. This is a 50mm tire. It is a lot like the Terrene Honali, only with more tread. The MSO weighs a touch more, and is actually about the same size overall. The puncture protection belt is there as well. Not surprisingly then, they both ride quite similarly.

Now I cannot imagine many racers wanting to use this beast of a tire, (the term "beast" used in relative terms here), because for one thing, not many gravel bikes will actually have the clearance for this tire. But I can imagine this being a Tour Divide tire. I can imagine this as a Fagro-ish tire for those wanting to finish Dirty Kanza, or a like event. I can imagine it as the tire one puts on a 29"er for dry single track and as a gravel bike tire too.

I have this set mounted to my Pofahl single speed which I have been having fun riding of late. It is nice that I was able to integrate reviewing a set of tires with riding this old friend again. The fit is really good. I'd forgotten how it felt to ride. The weather is turning against me though, and the time I have to spend on it in 2017 is drawing to a close. Hopefully I'll get a few more rides in before the snows and cold come to stay so I can get this review wrapped up.

Vittoria Terreno Mix and Terreno Dry tires
Vittoria Gravel Treads:

These gravel/all-road/adventure tires keep coming. It is quite amazing to me yet that all these specific purpose tires are coming out. I still remember when people were using Schwalbe Marathon Extremes for everything gravel because that was one of the only reliable, bigger volume tires available for gravel travel.

In the past, just having a design specific to gravel travel seemed like a dream to me. Then tubeless designs came and I was floored. Now actual high end technologies are being employed which are simply just astounding. Take these Graphene infused samples from Vittoria that I have here. The claim is that these are going to have a stiffer tread in straight lines and softer in corners, in braking situations, and for climbing. Whoa! That's just weird.

So, I guess I'll put these on some wheels and give them a go. Who knows? Maybe all this science stuff will actually work. Then again, maybe it won't be such a big deal. However that works out in the end, the fact that the cycling industry is putting this kind of effort into tires for adventure/all-road/gravel bikes shows that this deal has come a long way and seems to be the focus in the industry now.

A frosty morning commute not long ago.
Brown Season:

Fall is over. Yeah........I know. The calendar still says it is Fall. Weather-wise it isn't Fall anymore. It is the Brown Season. That time when everything is dead and the snow isn't here to whiten things up yet.

The winds from the Northwest bite and they are strong. Like up to 40mph strong yesterday. My luck, the route to work is dead Northwest. Right into the teeth of it.

And while it may sound cliche', my commute to work is mostly uphill. Really. So with that wind, the cold, and everything brown and dead, my commutes have been rather cheerless of late. Well, true......going home has been fine. Fast even. That part is good at least.

We've had a brief coating of frost a few mornings, and even some fog to make things interesting, but this brown thing doesn't set well with me. That and the shorter days. It can get on me and make me feel grey. I know that a lot of folks feel that way this time of year. Getting outside helps. Riding a bicycle seems to do the trick for me.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I'll be taking the day off here. I hope that you all have a wonderful day doing whatever it is that you have going on. I'll have a regular post going on Friday here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Velocity Gets Fat- Finally!

Velocity drops a hint on Facebook
Several years ago when I was going to attempt my third Triple D fat bike race, Velocity USA got a hold of me to ask if I wanted to try a pair of 26" Duallys laced to fat bike hubs so I could go tubeless. I said, "Sure!", and the next thing ya know I am rolling tubeless on a fat bike. It was revelatory, those tubeless rubber doughnuts, and I knew from that point on that tubeless tires for fat bikes would make a lot of sense. Probably more so than with any other type of bike.

I was asking the Velocity crew back then if they were going to get into fat bike hubs and "real" fat bike rims, but the answer was "not yet". Apparently "not yet" is 2018.

I ran across some Velocity fat bike hubs already on an online retailer's site. I had not heard any "official" rumblings of such a thing, and knowing Velocity, I figured that they would have trumpeted such a feat. I was right, it was confirmed when I saw that Velocity has now dropped this hint on Facebook and Instagram which are identical to the fat bike hubs I saw online.

Using the "Big" in the Facebook post and the font I see on the carbon rim as a hint, I am going to say that Velocity USA is teaming up with HED to offer fat bike wheels. This makes sense as HED is pretty stinky about how these rims of theirs get laced up, and Velocity USA is a pro level wheel house, so having them lace up wheels is probably a safe bet for HED. Velocity cannot extrude (yet) their own aluminum fat bike rims, so, again, it makes complete sense for them to source a fat bike hub, brand it, and lace it in-house to a HED Big Deal carbon rim. (Or a Big Fat Deal Rim)

I am sure they won't be cheap, but a set of these on one of my fat bikes would be so nice! I'll have to wait and see what is up with the details which are coming soon.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Bikes Of 2017

It is that time of year when I start reviewing the bikes that got me through 2017. Many of these bikes have been tweaked and changed so I will talk about that and why they were important to me this past year.

The bike that once was so unreliable I wouldn't ride it.
 The Surly 1 X 1:

This isn't a glamorous bike. It probably isn't even a "cool" bike, but as far as the bikes I own now, this one is the most utilitarian, and therefore, the most used bike I have.

It is also the lowest maintenance bike I own. Single speed, dead simple wheels and tires, set up tubeless, and old school cantilever brakes. There really isn't much to go wrong here.

I like this bike since I can lock it up and not worry too much about it getting stolen with its bolt on wheels. I need to put a traditional seat collar on it as it still sports a QR seat post clamp, but hey! A guy has to risk something! Ha! But besides that, the main thing I really enjoy are the wheels.

Sure....they are 26 inch wheels. I know some of you find that ironic. But this is a total street bike, not a mountain bike for me. Big difference. I would also submit that this is a 26" plus bike, since the tires are ginormous. That volume makes for a super cush ride. The tubeless part has been really good too. The tires fit sooooo tight on the Velocity Cliffhangar rims and the Surly Extraterrestrial tires are thick so that I think air retention is better than most set ups. Anyway, I've only had to re-up on sealant once. That's a big difference from the wheels I used on this to start out with that had tubed Panaracer tires. I couldn't ride it a mile without flatting. It was so frustrating I nearly mothballed this bike.

I run these tires at no more than 20 psi, for any reason, and the front is a tic under that. The reason I feel these are really "plus sized" 26"ers is that the tire pressure is super sensitive. Too much and the tires get bouncy and lose that smooth ride. Too low and they get real draggy feeling, and all that with only a couple of psi swing either way. Much like plus tires react.

Honestly, if the 1X1 weren't a "legacy bike", the bike that has been passed down from one Europa Cycles mechanic to another, I would probably get rid of it and put these wheels on a Surly Troll. One that was a size bigger and it would have a lot more versatility. But alas, this cannot happen because of the situation. And really, this bike does the commute to work so well in so many different kinds of weather, it wouldn't be the same if it were a brand new Troll. Something about 18 years worth of nicks, scrapes, and stickers that makes it something a bit more special than an ordinary 1X1.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 46

The Badger as it appears now in 2017
Ten years ago on the blog I didn't have much up for images, but there were a few of my bare framed Badger. I had not gotten it built up yet then as I was not very flush with cash. You know, as a bike shop employee in the Mid-West, not much has changed in that regard since that time!

This year I did get the Badger built back up in much the same way as I had envisioned it being back in 2007. Mostly silver components and nice wheels and tires. But it just wasn't to be back in 2007/2008. Things were taking off with the "Twenty Nine Inches" gig and time was short. Any extra money and time I could generate was funneled toward making TNI, and the couple of other website ventures I had going on then, work at least in a minimally effective capacity. Personal build projects like the Badger or my long running efforts to bring back my Karate Monkey to life were put on the back burner. Like, for years. 

The Trans Iowa v4 registration was still ongoing at this time ten years ago. This would have marked the first year that staged registration was used. Previously anyone and everyone's cards or online registration was accepted through a pre-set time period. But for v4 and beyond, the registration was done in a manner reflecting the "Winners/Finishers first, everybody else second" method. It was our way to honor those who had accomplished the feat of Trans Iowa, which at that time was less than 34 people.

My co-director, David Pals, and I were still working out just when we both could get together to do a recon. Unfortunately it wasn't until after we had a lot of snow and the temperatures were brutal on the day we tried to make it work. It was a small baby step as far as what needed to get accomplished, but it was something, at least.

Other than those things I was just looking forward to Thanksgiving and taking a bit of time off from the bustle of Trans Iowa and testing product.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday News And Views

Another bear sighting in Iowa recently. From the Iowa DNR page on Facebook
The Bears Come And The Bears Go:

Some folks live in "bear country", so this will be no big deal to them, but here in Iowa, bears are rarely seen. Last year I believe it was, there was a black bear sighting near Janesville, which is a village I cycle in and around often. This year in Northeast Iowa black bears were spotted again, which, for Iowa, is where you would expect to see bears. The terrain up there and the proximity to Wisconsin and Minnesota, both black bear homes, makes this occurrence less spectacular.

However; when you see that a bear has been spotted in Grundy County, which is due West of here, and mostly agricultural, it raises your attention levels. Especially in Fall. Spring and Summer bear sightings are most common, if you are to see a bear at all in Iowa, but Fall? I've never heard of it before.

Actually, I've never heard of black bears in Iowa until recently. When I was young, or in my 20's and 30's, it wasn't on my radar and no one spoke of such a thing. We would see the stray moose now and again, but never bears. Maybe I just wasn't aware of them and they have always been coming through Iowa. Hmm...... I just know that if I see one out gravel grinding someday I'll think I was hallucinating!

Ibis introduces the Hakka MX gravel/adventure bike
 Hakka (Gravel) Lugi:

Cyclo Cross spawned a subset of weirdness at one time which was sort of refreshing. I remember when Ibis debuted the cross bike they made in steel back in the day. They understood cyclo cross was a totally anaerobic, pain infested form of cycling, and the name they picked for their entry into the CX world reflected this in typical Ibis humor. They dubbed the bike the "Hakkalugi", in reference to how the lung searing efforts of cyclo cross would often cause one to hack up a large wad of mucus.

Well, cyclo cross got all serious, so maybe the humorous part of Ibis' past has been lost, but they have entered a rig in the gravel/adventure category and dubbed it the "Hakka MX". That's kind of a lame name, considering Ibis' past. I mean, it's obvious we don't have "MX" to "hack up", so whatever that means is lost on me. (I cross....whatever...)

The bike seems to be pretty on point as far as geometry and the current "multi-wheel fit" mania that has taken hold of the cycling world lately. Really.....who is going to actually swap out wheel sizes? It is a selling feature more than it is a practical feature, in my opinion. But however you see that playing out, it is a cool bike. It fits pretty big tires, and should make for a lightweight platform for a racy gravel rig. Plus, (little known TI fact), a Hakkalugi rider won T.I.v8. So there is that.

A T.I.v14 Rookie started an "event page" for Trans Iowa. Funny thing- I never was asked about it!
Things Unasked For:

Back when Jeff Kerkove launched Trans Iowa (V1), he did it on his Blogger page and on the Endurance Forum. Social media wasn't a "thing" back in late 2004, so, ya know, he did what he did. It worked, and it worked really well. Discussion about the event flourished on the MTBR forum for the first four or so Trans Iowas, but after T.I.v3, social media crept in and people moved away from blogs and MTBR's endurance forum became a sort of wasteland. About around 2010, I noticed more and more gravel road event promoters were either doing actual "dot-com" sites, using Bike as a defacto event site, or even more so, using Facebook as a "free event page" platform. Now in 2017 I would estimate that 60% or more of the events we catalog on's Events Page are Facebook addressed websites.

I have doggedly avoided Facebook for Trans Iowa purposes. It has become necessary to use it to link back to the original Blogger site, or this blog, to get information out there, but I almost never announce anything directly on Facebook, and a Trans Iowa page has never been set up, until now. And I didn't do it nor did I ask for it! 

Apparently some Rookie decided Facebook should be utilized as a place for discussion about the event, and set up a page, which looks "official", (he even pinched my artwork without asking), and is set up as though you might think I had something to do with it. I don't, and honestly, I don't care other than that this is a pretty cheeky move on this rider's part. I mean, you would think he'd have had the decency to at least ask. 

I guess I'm all wrong about that!

Have a great weekend and get in some riding. Thanksgiving is coming!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thoughts On Tubulars For Gravel Road Riding

A 40mm tubular from FMB proposed for gravel racing. Image pinched from
The tubular tire has a long history in cycling going back to the 19th Century. Basically, a round "tube" makes up the tire cross section. The tube is then made circular and tread is attached to the outside circumference of the tube. That then is glued to a rim which is specifically designed for this type of tire. This process of gluing can take quite a bit of preparation and time.

Flat tires can be ridden on, (until the tire carcass shreds or comes unglued), but repairs to tubulars are not often done and then only by skilled craftsmen and not immediately in the field. Typically one either carries another tubular tire pre-glued for replacement or one has to change out wheels from a "pit" on course or from a support vehicle, as you see often in Pro road racing.

So......why would one want a tubular for gravel road riding or racing? Well, for one thing, pinch flats would be non-existent theoretically speaking, as there is no traditional tube which would be separate from the tire to pinch. However, a cut tire is much more likely, if pressures are run low. Secondly, tubular tires have famously low rolling resistance and corner very well. Finally, there is a certain faction of cyclists that would find running tubulars something that would tickle their romanticized notions of cycling. So, for them, it would be justified.

I've written about the possibility of tubular tires for gravel road riding before here. In fact, I was so curious that I had Velocity build me a set of tubular wheels to try it out on based upon a tip from the folks at Challenge Tires years ago that they, (or someone) was going to make a big, wide tubular. That didn't happen so I actually laced the hubs over to some clincher rims this past Summer and hung the rims from the rafters.

With the typical gravel here in Iowa being chunky, loose, and deep, would tubulars survive the punishment?
I think certain places would do well with tubular tires. I think about Southeastern Minnesota, as an example, or anywhere the gravel is smaller in size, not very deep, hard packed, or really mostly dirt. However; that isn't what you will find everywhere, or in most areas that have unpaved roads. So, to my mind, this idea doesn't have enough merit to convince me that it is a solution that is better than a tubeless tire. While tubulars can be fantastically light, that probably isn't a good idea for a tire that will be getting constant roughing up by loose gravel. Not to mention riding anywhere there are puncture makers like goat heads and other thorny, pointy nasties on roads.

Tubeless tires typically are pretty bombproof out on gravel these days. It isn't impossible to have a flat, cut a tubeless tire, or to have some other issue, but those instances where tubeless gravel tires fail is rare and getting ever rarer. Even tubed tire use is easier on the maintenance side, and repairs are a snap in the field. Tubulars? Not so much.

This all has become relevant again because of a company famous for making tubulars, FMB, which has come out with an idea for a tubular gravel tire. (See the article here) In my opinion, this FMB tire is a stab at seeing what the reaction to a tubular for gravel racing might be. There is really no sense in the tire shown otherwise since the casing is huge, exposed badly on the sidewalls, and the tread is simply a CX tread glued on to this bigger casing. It isn't a practical design.

If this gains favor amongst racers, and FMB actually does a design worthy of use, which this design exercise clearly is not, then what? Well, it will be one more reason for the riders who are using these to call for support vehicles. I mean, you aren't really going to expect anyone in their right mind to carry a spare tubular and rip off the damaged tire, replace it with a pre-glued spare in the field, and carry onward, are you? Of course not! This isn't going anywhere unless gravel racing becomes just like Pro road races. So, unless the UCI gets behind this, or unless gravel races open up to going in the direction of Pro road races, this idea has zero merit. Because tubeless tires are already a far better idea than this is.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Paul WORD hub- Now with Boost
Its no secret that I like hubs, spokes, and rims for bicycles. I enjoy building my own wheels and I like riding them when I do build them up. There is just something really amazing about taking a bunch of wires, brass nuts, a hub with nice bearings, and a nice rim and making all of that in to a wheel.

So Paul Component Engineering just released news about a new version of their WORD hub. This is a hub that claims to be the very first production single speed mountain bike hub. If it wasn't, then it is close to being that. I know it has been around a long time. I bought a set of the first version of the Disc WORD for mt Karate Monkey back in 2003. Those hubs are still around although I need to re-lace them to new rims.

While I don't have a Boost spaced, single speed device around, it may happen someday. Who knows? It's good to know that a hub option exists that will work for a dedicated single speed set up. And even in polished silver! That's even sweeter.

While I am on the subject of Boost spacing, I've heard a rumor that it is coming to road bikes. Gravel road bikes, actually. It seems that a "certain component manufacturer" that doesn't have a great front derailleur design and is pushing 1X wants to introduce this so they can get you to buy a 1 X12 system for your next gravel bike. This is not all that surprising, and it will be touted as a solution for the gravel people who race in the earlier Spring events with mud and what not. But here's the thing......

DK200 2015- The infamous 3 mile mud march. Image by A Andonopoulous
Front derailleurs are not the problem. It is the rear derailleurs that stop folks from finishing these muddy, wet gravel events. The Land Run 100, the 2015 version of the DK200, Trans Iowa, and various other events have seen their fare share of rear derailleur carnage due to mud and bad conditions. Maybe a clutch style rear derailleur will be more mud resilient, but then again, maybe not.

At least it will be easier to set up a damaged bike single speed with a narrow-wide chain ring......possibly....maybe.

But why Boost? Well, it seems that many manufacturers are looking to stuff 2.1" 29"er tires into these "adventure/gravel" bikes. But you might say that many mountain bikes are using the "old" dimensions and are doing fine. You would be correct. So, again- why? Well, we are going to hear all the "stiffer, stronger. lighter" arguments, of course, but that isn't really why either. Think about it- If you already have tooling for Boost 1X12 why develop it in any other format than Boost? So, you are going to see a split in gravel/adventure. More "Cutthroat-ish" bikes with Boost and the more narrow Q factor bikes we have now with compatibility with road components. Then again- I could be all wrong about that.

In the meantime, I'm thinking those Boost WORD hubs and a nice, simple steel gravel rig, set up single speed would be the ticket. Hubba-hubba!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Whoops! Must have forgotten the LocTite!
So the other day I had my son out for a fat bike ride. He's a much bigger fella than he used to be, almost "man-sized" these days, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised if he breaks something.

The ride was going well. We were in the Green Belt riding out to do Marky-Mark and then we were heading back around the lake back there. I was up ahead of my son by about 50 yards when I heard a big "crack!". Then I turned to see my son dismounting his bike and exclaiming, "You've got to be kidding me!". I figured he snapped his derailleur off.

I rode back to where he was standing beside his bike which was laying drive side up in the trail. I looked at the rear wheel but all was fine there. Then I saw it. A folded over chain ring. What?!! I had heard about such things happening but I'd never had that happen to me. wan't me, but I did build the bike. Hrrumph! I must have forgotten the LocTiite on that bolt. My bad!

So, I told my son to hit the parking lot, which was about a quarter mile away, and then I rode home as fast as I could in my"high range" on the Blackboow DS. Spinning out on a bike with 4.8" fat bike tires weird deal. Roaring tires on pavement and a bit of bouncing, despite my best efforts at trying to be smooth. It was quite a scene!

Well, I got the "Truck With No Name" and rescued him as he was sitting in the parking lot in a light drizzle. Then I dragged the wounded bike down to the Lab where it has been since waiting on a new Race Face chain ring in green ano to replace the broken one.

I think I'll hang his old one up in his room after I get it off the bike, just as a reminder of the "good times"!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Single Speed 50

The Pofahl at the meeting place.
Last week I got a text message from Martin. ".....Would you be interested in a 40-ish mile ride Saturday?" I definitely was interested, and to boot, Martin was proposing to ride a single speed. In fact, it was a bike I used to own, an '07 Salsa Cycles El Mariachi.

We discussed via text what times and about a route. Martin sketched out a loop Eastward toward Independence Iowa because the winds were forecast from the Southeast and at a forecast upper 30's temperature, we didn't want a lot of headwinds. I liked the idea, because I hadn't been out that way previously. Lots of new-to-me roads, so I was very much game to go. It was decided we would ride at 11:00am from the old Waterloo 3GR meeting spot, a swimming pool parking lot on the Northeast side of Waterloo.

My Pofahl, now with the correct 180mm rotor (!!), has those new Donnelly MSO 50's on it and I set those up tubeless. I tried to accommodate for the cooler temperatures we would be riding in by airing up to 40psi rear/38psi front, realizing that after about 15 minutes I would be at something more in the mid-30's for psi. Then it was all about donning the garb to make it around the loop. Martin said it was about 45-46 miles, and I had about 3 miles to get to the meeting place, so I had to prepare for a good 50 miles of riding.

I wore thermal bib tights, an Omniwool base layer top which was long sleeved, a Twin Six Standard Wool jersey, short sleeved, and my Bontrager windproof jacket. On my head I wore my gifted Endspurt Hamburg liveried tube buff and my Bell Super helmet. On my hands I wore a thin base layer glove and Lycra Bontrager gloves over that. My feet were covered in long, calf high "Sock Guy" wool socks, a vapor barrier made from plastic grocery sacks, and 45NRTH Fasterkatt boots. Oh, I also used Spy Optic Daft glasses with tinted amber lenses.

Okay, on with the ride!

A farmer tills the land under sullen, grey skies
Martin showed up with the old El Mar, now sporting a stout 42 X 18T gear combo and the rest as I remembered it being. The notable feature here would be the voluminous Maxxis Ardent 2.4's, tubeless on Blunt 35 rims. More of a mountain bike set up, with gravel gearing! Martin wasn't spinning much! He was grinding it out and the initial miles featured some rollers which were not giving us any quarter. The gravel was the typical chunky goodness I'm used to, so that wasn't of any concern.

First stop: Rearranging some clothing and having a quick bite to eat.
The wind was a quartering headwind as we were headed out on a 12 mile stretch straight East. I wasn't cold, except for maybe the bottoms of my feet. Perhaps I will have to consider a thin insulating layer or a heavier sock next time I ride in conditions like this. I suppose the wind chill was well into the 20's. That's a bit under the recommended range for those Fasterkatts anyway. Any colder and those boots wouldn't have been a good choice anyway.

But beyond that we were making great time. Martin said later our average speed was 12.5mph, so we weren't slouching by any stretch. I didn't pack any gizmos or traditional computer for mileage or data gathering. Martin was using a Garmin device of some kind. He didn't have the route downloaded though and about a third of the way in to the route Martin handed me the cues and he verified turns by matching up the mileage on his Garmin. That kept both of us engaged in the navigation.

Eventually we reached the roads I was unfamiliar with. Big Rock Road all the way to Buchanan County, then some meandering as we negotiated the roads around the Wapsipinnicon River valley and the river itself was crossed at Littleton. Martin was hoping to route by a resupply spot in case we needed to warm up or get food and water. Neither was necessary, so we motored on through town and took a right to round the eastern side of the loop Martin had sketched out for us.

We had a running buddy for a little bit.
We hit this narrow, tree lined road South of Littleton. Surprisingly it had a lot of car traffic!
Headed back West now.
So, here we started going West again, but the wind had laid down, or wasn't really a factor, because we weren't feeling any effects of it anymore. Just as well as the cold temperatures would have felt worse with a stiff wind. Martin said at one point as we were going back that it was 38°F. With the gray skies, it certainly looked, and felt a lot colder than that!

The roads on the Eastern swing were really smooth and fast. The gravel was chewed up to be a lot finer and less deep. We were running right on the road bed in many places. It was certainly really dusty, and it was evident that we needed rain, or lots of snow over Winter. Ironically enough, it rained all night Saturday night, but on our ride the dust was about as bad as it gets. The cars passing us by left clouds of dust which were impenetrable as far as seeing through them. Thankfully what little wind was left blew it off the roadway rather nicely.

The miles were winding down and we were thinking about cutting off a bit of a Northward turn to make the ride a bit quicker. Martin was also feeling the effects of the tall gearing, and hills were getting more difficult for him. We had stopped for our last extended time at an old country church so I could get another cemetery gate pic for the album. This was the St. Francis cemetery on Airline Highway. I had ridden past it earlier in the year going North on the road near to the church, but I hadn't ridden right past it until the ride with Martin on Saturday. This stop gave us the chance to rearrange boittles and grab our last bits to eat before we made our final push.

The Pofahl looking a bit more dusty than it was in the beginning.
A giant erratic about the size of a small house poking out of the corn stubble.
The dust was incredible for late Fall/early Winter.
The rest of the ride went according to Martin's original plan. That was because we had to use the original route. Our planned short cut turned out to be impossible since Airline Highway didn't go all the way through. It was interrupted by a pesky field. So, we turned North and went to Big Rock Road anyway.

The rest of the route then was a retracing of our route going out. That was okay because all these roads I knew quite well after so many years of running around out there. The end was back at the parking lot where I decided to hitch a ride from there to the house since Martin was going that way and he offered to give me a lift. I already had 50 miles in, so I was good with skipping the last three.miles back to the house.

I was pretty pleased with the outcome of the ride. We didn't mess around, covering the entire loop in slightly less than four hours. I felt pretty good. I am happy with how I am coming back after being ill and off the bike for the better part of a month without any real long rides. Unfortunately, with the iffy weather at this point in the year, I may not get in that SS Century Ride I wanted to do. I am pretty sure I could take a stab at it soon, but me having the time and the weather lining up is getting tougher to have work out.

But that's okay if it doesn't happen. I'll keep working on things and next year I hope to be pushing more century rides and having fun. Till then, it might happen again this year, it might not. Trans Iowa v14 is calling too. Lots to do before 2017 closes out.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 45

Riding the North side of Camp Ingawanis on an SE Stout SS rig.
Ten years ago on the blog I was still riding and testing stuff for the old "Twenty Nine Inches" website. This was a weird time for me as I had a bunch of stuff I was obligated to test with very little time to test it out. It was November, after all, and who knew when it might snow to the point we couldn't ride anymore? This made for some stressful times.

Interestingly enough, the cycling industry was, and still is, quite interested in sending out items for testing and review at this time of year. I always was a bit taken aback by this. Don't they know it snows in the upper Mid-West? But of course, when the vast majority of companies are based in cycling-centric SoCal, or in other warm, comfortable places, then I suppose it makes sense that they might not take harsh Winter conditions into consideration. Whatever the case, I was always pressed for any time for anything outside of testing stuff from late October till whenever the snow flew or the temperatures dropped to the teens or below. That was the point at which it made any kind of riding more a game of survival than anything.

Understanding companies would sometimes allow us to hang on to bikes till Spring broke and we could ride again, which was always appreciated. But, that wasn't always the case, so I had to ride as much as I could back in '07-'10 during this time of the year. After that, I had Grannygear in SoCal and our German based rider, cg, to rely on since their weather allowed for riding in Winter with no real problems.

It was a different world back then. Once Winter snowed out the trails, it was over for riding unless the gravel was open and I could ride in the country, but sometimes that was too icy. Fat bikes weren't a thing yet. I normally would wish for enough snow to XC ski, but barring that, it was a time of rest and waiting. Trans Iowa stuff was usually done during this time, and ten years ago, I was still running registration for v4.