Saturday, June 30, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 26

The Pofahl with really swept back flat bars. It was supposed to have flat bars from the get-go.
Ten years ago on the blog I was gabbing about a few changes I find notable today. First was that the old Goodwill store which used to be on the East side of the shop where I work at was in the process of moving to the West side and into a refurbished/new space. Hard to believe that was going on ten years ago now.

The second thing I noted was that I got MG's tubeless recipe from him and used it to successfully convert some old WTB Vulpines to tubeless. Vulpines were never tubeless ready, so this was a risk, but they held up for years and I actually still have those tires. They are pretty good gravel tires even with today's gravel specific treads coming out.

The last thing was that I decided to ride out at Hickory Hills with the mountain bike. It had been about ten years since I had been out there previous to that, back when the shop I work at sponsored and ran a XC mtb race out there. Now, I cannot remember when I did the following, but I did explore every trail out there once. Yeah.....they weren't all open to cycling.... The reason I did that was that I wanted to know if what I had heard back in the late 80's was true. That Hickory Hills was the best spot for mountain biking anywhere. That was true ten years ago. Maybe not so much now, but...... With some tweaks and development, it could be. Will we ever know in my lifetime? Unlikely, as those that should be focused on prime land for the best, challenging mountain biking are focused on expanding river bottom trails that get flooded out consistently and require he-man loads of maintenance.

So, no. I don't see this happening anytime soon. Glad I rode it the time I did.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday News And Views

Kansas can be serene or it can be violent. Tornadoes are a constant threat.
A Chance To Give Back:

Have you ever done the Dirty Kanza 200 and gone through a checkpoint town? The ride absolutely takes over these burgs for the day, and the citizens are all about supporting it, for the most part. It is an amazing welcoming in of a horde of cyclists that they don't have to do. Well, one of these towns, Eureka, Kansas, was struck by a tornado and suffered a lot of damage. Now, if you have ever benefited from the checkpoint towns in that event, you have a chance to show you care.

A fund raising site has been started to raise funds which will go to helping Eureka get back on its feet again. We have responded at RidingGravel.com and we ask that you join in and help these amazing, kind folks in Eureka.

Here's the link. No amount is too small. Please consider giving..... Thank you.

In addition DK Promotions is offering 20% of all DK merch sales made now through July 31st to Eureka's recovery efforts. You can check it out HERE 

High Tech Zip Ties v2
 Hip Lok Z Lok Combo & Z Lok:

I got a couple of these Hip Lok "zip tie-like" locks in to check out recently. They are kind of like the Ottolock  I reviewed on RidingGravel.com, but these have a few different characteristics.  

First and foremost, the Z Lok Combo, (the one with the black sliding "switch") is a LOT shorter than an Ottolock is. Secondly, it has a solid steel strap encased in plastic, whereas the Ottolock uses a stainless steel mesh inside the plastic outer. 

This makes the Z Lok Combo a lot stiffer and a lot tougher to use since you have to have a frame member right up against something you want to lock to. That isn't always easy to do. The stiff, steel strap isn't very pliable either, so slight twists and bends that an Ottolock can do, this lock cannot. 

While I don't have any data to back it up, I am betting the Z Lok Combo is tougher to defeat though. It just depends on if you can make it work where you need to lock the bike up for a few moments. Oh yeah, and due to its form factor, it isn't as easily stowed as the Ottolock either. But here's the kicker. The Z Lok Combo only costs $19.95. That's a big difference from the 18" Ottolock  which runs North of $50.00 on most sites. 

The smaller Z Lok is different. It has the steel strap core but uses a forked key to unlock it. I wouldn't rely on this ten dollar lock alone, but you can use it to lock gear to your bike, disable a wheel, and it compliments a Z Lok Cobo well in that role.  Together you could use both to temporarily lock up your rig to go inside a convenience store, for instance, to resupply on a gravel ride. Or use these to disable your bike while camping out on a bike packing trip. 

 Pink MCD Update:

I am patiently waiting for the Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross Disc (MCD) frame and fork to show up, which is looking like mid to late July as of now. Yes, the frames land here in early July, but it takes time to pass through customs, get into Mike Varley's hands at Black Mountain Cycles, and then turned around and shipped out to eager customers like myself.  

According to the latest update provided by Mike this week, the run on the initial MCD frame order is intense. Many sizes are running out. No surprise here. If this MCD is anything like the quality and design which are evident in the OG Monster Cross frame and fork, this bike will be stellar. The word is out now, and the price that this frame and fork are going for is a great bang for the buck. And I haven't even seen or handled one, so that may sound like crazy talk. However; I have faith that this will be bourne out when the MCD gets here and many other folks feel likewise. 

Well, with that out of the way, the latest thing that is getting put together in advance of the frame and fork arriving is the wheel set. All I need to do now is to get an 11 speed cassette and mount my WTB Resolutes on the Irwin Cycling Carbon Aon GX 35 wheels. I kind of want to hold off on the cassette until I square away my choice for the crank set. Gearing will play a big role here, so cassette choice has to go along with that. 

The cock pit is getting squared away as well. I have already chosen some bits I have here to use on this bike. The Redshift ShockStop stem is going on with a Salsa Cycles Cowchipper bar. The seat post will be the excellent Salsa Cycles Ti regulator. The saddle will be a Brooks Cambium C17 All Weather. Tape will be Marque Cycling Diamond Tape in Pink. 

Really, the only missing parts are the head set and crank set/bottom bracket. That and cables, housings, and whatever smaller bits I need. I've got a few weeks to square this away. I'll need all that time, especially after the bill I paid to fix my truck, which came out of the bike fund. Yeah......ouch.  

Thanks for reading here! Have a great weekend and try to stay cool and hydrated! 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Daylilies In The Ditches

Time to test this new Bolle' "The One" helmet out. My first go at an aero helmet.
Wednesday it was perfect for riding again. Maybe not as near as good as Saturday was, since there was a touch more wind, but really. Who cares? When it is good, ya gotta get a ride in. I cannot always do that, so Wednesday was a blessing.

I had a new helmet come in for a review on RidingGravel.com. It is a helmet from Bolle', who I know as a sunglasses maker. Now, I was pretty dang skeptical this would work out, and for good reason.

You see, I was blessed with a big melon head. My "official" hat size is 7 7/8ths. Something like 63cm or so around. So, most helmets don't fit me, most hats don't fit me, and most anything for your head, yeah......it doesn't fit me. To make matters worse, my head is really egg shaped. Not round at all. It makes fitting a helmet for cycling darn near impossible. In fact, I didn't wear a helmet for many years. There just wasn't anything that fit.

I ended up modifying a Shoei helmet back in the 90's by Dremmeling out some of the foam in the front and back of the helmet to make it "custom" fit to my head. Finally I came across Bell helmets which were an acceptable fit. Newer Bontrager stuff fits me okay, but nothing I've tried is really very good. Nothing. Every helmet I have ever had is a compromise and fit is not 100% right. Same with this Bolle', with one minor exception- It is the first helmet I've ever tried that fits and stays on my head without it being strapped at the chin. I can actually lean over and it doesn't fall off. So, it's closer to fitting me right, but it is not spot on.

It varied from mostly cloudy to partly cloudy but the temperature and humidity were not bad.
Enough about helmets. I slapped that Bolle' on my head and headed North. I haven't been North of town in awhile, and even though I didn't check the weather, I hit it just right. I'd have a tailwind on the way home.

The other thing I hit about perfect was the blooming of the daylilies in the ditches. I love wild flowers, so I look forward to the yearly blooming of the different flowers. This year's daylilies are fantastic.


There were a lot more than this, but that should give you a good idea of how it looked out there. Pretty spectacular in places where both ditches were filled with that distinctive blazing orange color. These will last for a week or so, if we're lucky, and then they will start fading. But other flowers are coming on, so the show isn't over just yet. Get out there and enjoy it while you can!


Red Winged Blackbirds were busy trying to harass me again, but the heavier winds were keeping them at bay. The other thing I noted was odd, to me anyway. Those birds are beginning to flock together again. Usually that is a sign that migration is happening soon. I'm not super familiar with when Red Wing Blackbirds leave Iowa for Winter, but I am very aware of when they come. Maybe they always leave around now? Don't know......

I ended up with about 30 miles. I had to get home for a dentist appointment. Nothing major- just routine maintenance. Passed with flying colors. Next big ride should happen this Saturday when N.Y. Roll is putting on a 75 miler featuring a lot of Level B Roads. Should be a scene.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Criss-Crossing Town

This is actually one of our bike trails. Unpaved. I REALLY like it that way!
Well, "The Truck With No Name" is repaired and back in my possession. I had to commute across Waterloo from end to end to get it. This made me think about our current bicycle infrustructure.

As a commuter who uses a bicycle, I find that the routes made for and designated as bicycle paths are really not practical. Recreational? Yes! That part is wonderful, but since where I have to go isn't served by good bike paths that are practical, I have to know the city well.

There are some good bike paths though, don't get me wrong. Plus, unlike a fellow cyclist I saw on Facebook who toured through here yesterday, I find the high ground out of the flooded areas and mosquito infested pools. That's what is good about paying attention to your surroundings and living in an area where Native American and Pioneer trails were preserved by traffic paths today. Routes exist that are useful and that are not high traffic or high speed (or both) throughways.

Plus new stuff that is useful is coming on-line all the time here. I hit up the trail on the North side of the Cedar River for a bit since that took me right where I wanted to get to, which was a residential area that had streets that paralleled the old main drag from Evansdale to Waterloo. Then it was an easy-peasy ride to the repair shop and my reuniting with my repaired truck.

I dropped in here to a bit of newer trail on the North side of the Cedar River through Waterloo.
I did have some "might-as-wells"fixed and maintained while the truck was there. Funny thing was that a small annoyance, the drivers side door lock, was the most expensive repair, and it wasn't even an electronic door lock! Fully manual! I suppose had it been one of those fancy-pants, key fob, touch pad entries, it would have been a LOT more money, so I am not complaining! My truck is back and good to go with a functioning, safely secured gas tank, a good working door lock, new belts, and an oil change.

And yes.....my bank account is a LOT emptier! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Old Shoes- New Shoes

Me wearing my trusty Shimano three strap shoes at the 2015, DK200 Image By A. Andonopoulous
Shoes. You don't give them much thought unless your shoe string is untied, and calamity strikes. Or maybe if your foot hurts, gets hot, is too cold, or is sticking out of a hole in said shoe. Wait a minute........ I guess we do think a lot about our shoes! 

Anyway, cycling shoes are maybe less thought about, because you likely have only one pair and they either work or they do not work. Well, one of my several pairs, (yes, a cycling shoe fashion plate!), wore out Saturday. My favorite pair, actually. A lowly pair of Shimano three strap Velcro closure shoes. I got them......I don't know for sure....maybe five-six years ago? Pretty sure it has been a while.

Anyway, it is a wonder they lasted as long as they did. Commuting and gravel travel are tough on equipment. But some of the days I had with those shoes on should have taken out a lesser shoe. I mean, just take the 2015 Dirty Kanza, you know- the "Mud Year", for instance. Or how about that one muddy year at Odin's Revenge? Then there was that cesspool we walked through a couple of years ago at Gravel Worlds. Well........you get the picture. 

So, I had a twinge of nostalgia when I opened the dust bin to toss them away. I had all those crazy adventures flash before my mind's eye. No.....I threw them out. The last thing I need around here is another pair of dead shoes. I already have a pair of Sidi Dominator's from 1997 I think I'm going to resurrect someday.

The new shoes have been ordered.
In fact, I've already ordered a new pair of shoes to replace my old ones with. They are the new Shimano XC500 shoes in the limited edition "Camo". Yeah....... I have no idea what you'd be blending in with wearing these shoes, but whatever it is, I'm sure it would mean big trouble, and I never want to see it. Whatever "it" is.

I just like the "not-blackness" of them and they kind of remind me of the old Sidi Dominator colors, which were blue and Hi-Viz yellow. And the pattern is something that I'm attracted to, so they work for me. Besides, they won't stay looking like that for long!

I'm sure a few muddy Level B roads, some rainy rides, maybe some snow, and lots of gravel are in their future, not to mention the occasional dirt ride. That said, if they are half the shoe the old Shimano shoes were, I'll be a satisfied customer.

Maybe I'll toss out those Sidi shoes after all..........

Monday, June 25, 2018

It Started With A Bang......

Temporary fix, but not good enough for 10 hours of driving.
Thursday I was getting everything organized after work. I had caught up with repairs, so I wasn't necessarily needed on Friday at the shop. I was planning on bugging out to Lincoln Friday morning instead. I had to get the "Truck With No Name" gassed up and then get home to pack.

The tank was full, and as I pulled out from the convenience store, I heard a loud clunk. I thought my front suspension had maybe made the noise. Then I heard rattling underneath the truck on the 10 block drive home. "Dang it! Something is wrong!"

I got home and inspected the underside of the truck and then I saw it. My gas tank was hanging weirdly. A strap broke that holds it in. There was no way I could use the truck to drive to Lincoln Nebraska in this condition. My wife needed her car, so no use trying that idea. My trip to the Solstice 100 was over before it even began. To say I was bummed would be a massive understatement.

To make matters worse there was something wrong with the driver's side door lock and I just about broke off the key. Fortunately I had a spare, but that would also need looked at. Friday morning I spent jerry-rigging up a strap to hold the tank in so I could drive the truck to the repair shop. Parts are ordered and as of this writing I am still truck-less. Probably will be till later this week. At least I ended up going out and having a wonderful evening and dinner with Mrs. Guitar Ted Thursday night.

Saturday I went out and rode by myself to assuage my disappointment. 


So, new plans were laid to go out with my family later on Saturday to see a movie. Saturday morning the weather was perfect for riding, and I got out and headed down South for whatever I could grab for a ride. I didn't know how I would be with fitness or how the roads would be, but at least the winds were a non-factor, being very light.

The gravel was extra chunky and thick in Tama County in places.

I ended up having to do battle with some very aggressive Red Winged Blackbirds, to start out with. Twice I had to dismount and throw rocks at the devils before they'd let me pass. Then I learned something about their behavior which I used to my advantage. Well, two things, really. One- they don't bother you at 14mph and above. Second, they do not like it if you can see them coming. They will abort their attack if they see your eyes. So, I was bobbing and weaving at times trying to make sure I stayed in eye contact with these birds because they know how to get into your blind spot. Once they see you are on to their game, they leave you alone. It was kind of like dog fighting aircraft. Actually I was having fun with that.

That was on Aker Road. Then, inexplicably, once I got off Aker that never happened again. So, I enjoyed the rest of the afternoon bird-attack free.

Two miles of Level B roads- no muddy mess! Surprising!
I went through Buckingham on new pavement, which was nice, then back into really chunky gravel west of there. I got North far enough to catch some more adventurous roads. I thought heading up the Level B road on 110th in Tama County was a fools errand, since we'd had so much rain recently. However, I only had a few sticky spots and the rest was fast, albeit a bit soft. I was pretty surprised I made it all the way to the west end of that stretch. Then I decided to go through Reinbeck and see what was happening- (not much)- and I headed out West on the Pioneer Trail back to gravel.

I saw this pretty pink flower and lots of others Saturday.
The roads either side of Reinbeck were "hero gravel". Super smooth and very fast. Earlier in Tama County I had encountered lots of deep, chunky gravel, but this stuff around Reinbeck made me forget about that. This area also was my third county ridden in for the day. Once I left Grundy County it was back to Black Hawk County's chunky goodness.

Barns For Jason
While riding out of Reinbeck I figured I could get in a half century and still be good for the movie time. So that's what I ended up with. 52 miles to be exact. It wasn't the Solstice 100, this wasn't a race report, but it was something. I'll take it. No reason to be down about the situation. It was out of my hands anyway.

And while it wasn't what I was expecting, while it was disappointing not to see all the friends and acquaintances I have in Lincoln, Nebraska, it maybe was just what I needed. I had an issue at about Mile 40 with my shoulder, the perennially problematic left one, getting pretty sore. (I blame the non-flared drops on the Jamis), and I had all I wanted in the 52 miles I did ride. Could I have finished the Solstice? I'll never know, and it doesn't matter. I got a wonderful ride in and it was a near perfect day out.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Touring Series: Approaching The Big Lake

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

  As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995. 


We join the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" as it embarks from Gillett, Wisconsin to begin Day Six.......
___________________________________________________________________
As Troy, Steve, and I got our things packed we looked at the maps and decided that we would need to get East in as straight a direction as possible. That meant hopping on to the State highway that ran straight east after leaving town on the northern end. We got geared up and set off in a thickening fog on a cool morning.

After setting off down the road from Gillett, it was obvious that our choice was a rather sketchy one. Even though we had our "blinkies" on, the fog was so thick that we didn't see cars coming from the other direction until they were nearly on top of us. We all knew what that meant, even though we hadn't communicated about it. We were nearly invisible to cars!

Well, we hadn't gone down the road far, in pretty constant traffic, when we heard the unmistakable sound of an air horn being applied from behind us. The driver didn't just toot it either. He was laying on it, and it was getting louder and louder from behind us. First Troy bailed off the road, then Steve shortly after. I contemplated holding my ground, but with the deafening noise of the air horn seemingly right in my ear, I thought better of it and steered for the ditch. Good thing too. A huge dump truck went by in a blur right down the white line where we were riding just moments before.

Well, that had us pretty shook up. We gathered ourselves up, and pulled out the map to find some sort of way out of the death trap we had found ourselves in. There was a little discussion and then it was decided to go to a county road leading northwards off the highway not more than a half a mile up the road. It wasn't to Troy's liking, since we didn't take the time to figure out where to go after the turn, but Steve and I were insistent that we get off the busy highway as soon as possible, then we could talk. Troy wanted a plan laid out so we wouldn't have to stop, but our desires won out.

Once we found the northward road, the moods changed dramatically, and the quietness of the back road was a welcome reprieve from the mayhem of the highway. We found a straight road east not far from us, so we headed out in search of it and the next town up the road. Once we got rolling we found the fog lifting, but it was very calm and cool this morning. Eventually we rolled up to an intersection and a town just across from it.

It was a little town called Lena and as we rolled through we caught a waft of fresh pastries. That was a siren call to stop. Even Troy fell to its power and thought getting something to eat would be a great idea. We all were very pleased with our purchases and devoured them accordingly. It wasn't long before we were back in the saddle again heading eastwards for a turn northwards towards Peshtigo, where we hoped to be before noon.

After anxiously looking for what we thought was our turn, we stopped right in the middle of the road and consulted the map. I don't think we had encountered a car since leaving the highway out of Gillett, so we all felt confident in stopping right there in the road. We were all confused, because we felt that our mileage was enough to have carried us eastward to the turn off, and very near Lake Michigan, but we couldn't see anything. The fog was to blame partly, as it wasn't right on the ground anymore, but caused enough haziness as to make sighting anything around us very difficult. Suddenly, as if the veil had been lifted from our eyes, what we thought was a field of grass in the distance in front of us was finally seen for what it was- Lake Superior!

We now knew where we were. The turn was found, and we headed northwards to a highway and our final run in to Peshtigo. It was about 11:30 am and we were looking for a bite to eat. We found a small cafe, where there was a waitress that struck me as being sad, with far away eyes, but I really had no other reason to mark her out. Something about that look in her eyes. Anyway.......

We got on our way after much delay. Troy was very anxious to put in some miles towards our Canadian destination. Time was running out, with only one more day to go for the tour. Troy wasn't going to let this slip away without a fight. I thought I knew what that meant, but I was in for a surprise or two!
_____________________________________________________________________

After all these years this is one of the days from that 1994 tour I often am reminded of. That foggy morning was super sketchy! Traffic was heavy on a narrow, two lane highway on a Friday morning. I imagine we escaped by the skin of our teeth that morning, but what was really crazy was that Steve and I had to practically argue with Troy to get him to not go back to that madness again.

Ironically the peaceful morning stop for pastries was met with gladness by Troy and the vast difference in feel to that point from earlier made it seem that these two memories happened on different days now.

Then the mirage-like appearance of the Lake, Michigan, was amazing. That is something that seemed magical and I won't soon forget that day just because of that. Then the slog into Peshtigo was reminiscent of our departure from Gillett. Many cars, stressful, no fun at all.

Lunch was a respite, we lingered a while in that small cafe. I still can see that waitresses eyes......

Next Week: Speed Touring

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Minus Ten Review -25

I got this old El Mariachi from a friend at the time. What a great bike that was!
Ten years ago on the blog here I was gabbing about all sorts of things. I got an old El Mariachi demo fleet bike from a then friend of mine. That was a great bike too. Then later in the week I was up in the Twin Cities for the media launch of the Salsa "Big Mama" full suspension bike. Remember that one? It was pretty rad at that time, but it quickly fell off the back as geometry, standards for frames, and more were quickly changing for 29"ers. For instance, the Big Mama had a head tube angle of 71°. Imagine a bike with that steep of a head angle today!

Then there was a move to ban bicycle group rides in Dallas County by way of making the requirements to have such a ride so burdensome that the ordinance would effectively wipe out any chance of organized rides happening in that county. Here's a snippet from back then:

On June 24th at 9:30 am the Dallas County Board of Supervisors will meet at the Adel City Hall, 301 S. 10th Street Adel, IA 50003, to discuss an ordinance that will require bicycle events to obtain $1 million insurance policies for bicycle events. This could effect rides as small as 10-20 people.

Fortunately that never happened!

Then a significant date in Trans Iowa history happened, which was a bicycle ride and blog post about it that had nothing at all to do with Trans Iowa. You can read that post HERE.  If you click that link you will read about the day that the second Big Wheeled Ballyhoo was to take place in Decorah, Iowa, but did not happen due to the raging flooding that affected Decorah and Iowa that year in general. 

How in the world is this tied to Trans Iowa? Well, after that blog post was published, I received an e-mail from a disgruntled, influential member of the Decorah cycling community who shall remain nameless here. Who it was doesn't matter today. The person in question was offended greatly that I had suggested certain things were the way I described them in my post. I had a back and forth e-mail conversation with the individual to settle our differences, but, this individual asked that I ".....not consider Decorah for any future cycling events." With the situation being what it was in 2008, and my initial plans for doing another Trans Iowa out of Decorah for 2009, I had to stop and reconsider those plans. I discussed the situation with my then co-director, David Pals, and we agreed that this was now not a welcome home for Trans Iowa. Such sway this person held over cycling matters in Decorah at that time would have made planning difficult at best. So we decided to move Trans Iowa's start for the second time in its history.  

That story will come up later this year....... 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday News And Views

Riding off into the Sunset.......
Hold On A Min......

 Just when you think you've left it all behind you, then this..... A blog about a Trans Iowa v14 experience, but not just any experience. This was from one of the riders that got DQ'ed, Stefano Tomasello. You should grab a cuppa whatever, and settle in, because despite what Stefano may think, this is a compelling read. (Click Here)

First off, I appreciate his transparency and his honest feelings. I had imagined that he was going to be disappointed and then doubly so when he found out I wasn't going to do another Trans Iowa. Apparently I was right about that, judging from this blog post of his. As for myself, I already said my piece about the incident in my race reports here on the blog immediately following T.I.v14. But here is a quote which sums up those thoughts and feelings that I had about the incident which I pulled from my report:

"I felt sad. Sad that this happened, but I didn't place any blame. None of us did. What actually happened amongst those three riders which precipitated the decision they made is only a story they know. I'm not really interested in the full story, to be honest. It is what it is."

Of course, I know a little bit more about the story now, but my mind hasn't been changed. It is what it is. I find what people do after they DNF, or as in this case, get DQ'ed, is what is fascinating. So, for me, Stefano's telling of that bit was of great interest to me. The pre-event happenings were also shocking to me. Amazing things happened to that man. It is a wonder he even made it to the start.

Anyway, a great story, and I was glad to have been able to read it. Thank you, Stefano. 

A Pirelli tire
 Will The Bicycle Tire Market Be Changed By Big Players?

One of the sub-stories of 2018 is that two large tire makers, known more for their automobile, truck, motorcycle, and other vehicle tires, are entering the bicycle tire marketplace. In both cases, for a second time.

Pirelli and Goodyear seem like oddballs in the cycling world, but both companies are communicating a serious effort will be made to be a "player" in the marketplace. There are a few folks taking this message seriously in the industry. I am less convinced.

I don't know, color me skeptical, but I find it hard to believe that high performance cycling aficionados will be taking a "car tire company" seriously. I know that seems like a specious statement, since Continental makes automobile and motorcycle tires and many other Chinese made brands, like Maxxis and Kenda also do vehicle tires. Somehow Goodyear seems different. Pirelli? Maybe..... I could see that.

But I also can't help but wonder if the interest some motor vehicle companies are showing in e-bikes isn't the real motivating factor here. Yamaha already has e-bikes and Ford Motor Company is talking a pretty serious e-bike game as well. Could it be that these motor vehicle related tire companies are getting a foot in the door to be players in a marketplace where vehicles with two wheels are electrified? Wooing folks off pedelecs fitted with these brand's tires and onto full on e-motorcycles will be a pathway for these brands and others to stay players in a post-internal combustion vehicle future.

Wolf Tooth Component's new bags for stuff.
Wolf Tooth Introduces Bags For Bike Storage:

In the old game of bicycle bags, there are so many players you cannot keep track of them all. Bikepacking, (or "Amateur Homelessness:, as one blogger calls it), has fueled the bag rage to insane heights. Now Wolf Tooth has entered the fray with accessories to it's "B-Rad" system.

The "Pump Bag" holds a 12" pump, but can carry more things than that, of course. It will mount off a B-Rad base, but it comes with straps to mount to frame tubes as well. The other bag is a roll top affair dubbed the........wait for it......."Roll-Top Bag"! It is dropper post compatible and also can be mounted to a B-Rad via an adapter plate or directly strapped to frame tubes.

I like these ideas since many bikes, and especially gravel/all road bikes, have inaccessible water bottle mounts which seem like perfect places to mount "other stuff". Tool kits, extra clothes, etc all can be toted onboard with easy access. This could be a space saver and make room for other things in hydration packs or seat bags and top tube bags. You can check out both bags HERE on Wolf Tooth's site

"On the water" soon!
Pink MCD Update:

I got word mid-week that the pink MCD frame by Black Mountain Cycles is sitting in a container waiting to be loaded onto a container ship bound for the U.S.A. soon. Proprietor, Mike Varley, says the ETA is around July 2nd.

I have a link to track the ocean going vessel as it comes across the Pacific Ocean. That isn't the typical "dot watching" I would normally be engaged in, but this seems like a good diversion for the meantime as I gather more bits and pieces together to get this rig road worthy once it arrives.

I forgot to mention that I decided on some Marque Cycling pink bar tape to put on the Salsa Cowchipper Bar I already have sitting down in the Lab. Those will be fitted with Gevenalle levers which will be retrofitted with some 11 speed Shimano bar end shifters I have squirreled away. Those levers will also pull some TRP Spyre calipers I have sitting around and I may look into some Center Lock rotors to go on the Irwin Cycles Aon Carbon GX 35 wheels. If not Center Locks then I already have the adapters to go six bolt style.

Well, there will be a lot of parts acquisition going on soon, so stay tuned for all of that......

In the meantime, have a great weekend and stay rubber side down!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Uncertainty

Made some tweaks to the set up
Well, this weather pattern sure has been rough in terms of my getting chances to ride. That's brought on a level of uncertainty for this weekend's Solstice 100. One hundred miles......

That would make it my longest ride, by a long, long way, this year. I had expected to have had a few 100 milers under my belt by now, but no. It wasn't to be for whatever reasons. But, that makes this weekend's goals easier to ascertain. Have fun and finish. However long that takes.

The theme of uncertainty was furthered on Wednesday when it wasn't supposed to rain at all. (Ahem!) Yeah..... So, I woke up to rain and all morning the weather app kept saying it would rain again around noon. It didn't, of course. It waited until 3:30pm to pour forth again. In between it was misty, threatening rain, and I wasn't sure I could get a decent ride in all day. So, I got the bike dialled in by making a few rounds about the neighborhood. That'll have to do.

And so if the whole deal is going to be about uncertain things, why not use an untested bike with brand new wheels? Seems consistent with the latest theme. Then there is the fitness. I have done all the off the bike things I can do to give myself an advantage. But some fatigue inducing stress at work and maybe a mild bug have seemed to keep me feeling not so hot anyway.

So whatever...... I am planning on leaving for Lincoln, Nebraska again Friday come hell or high water, and I will just give 'er what I've got Saturday. It won't be pretty..........

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Proposed Tarifs Could Make A New Bike Spendy

Lots of average priced bikes may see price hikes in the near future.
There are some new PROPOSED tariffs which are being talked about with great concern in the cycling industry today. The tariffs are being considered against Chinese manufactured goods and bicycles are on the list of products being taken under consideration for these tariffs.

First off, Taiwanese products are NOT part of this. That excludes a big chunk of the higher end bicycle market. However; many mid to entry level bikes are made in China, and a proposed 25% tariff would really hike the prices of these bikes so much that sales would suffer in the near term, for sure. That's because at these price levels consumers are not really willing to spend a lot on a bicycle.

The industry's press/media is covering this issue as an "e-bike" scare, pretty much ignoring the fact that the largest segment of the cycling market, that being big box store bikes and entry level bikes, are also in the bullseye for these price hikes. I would wager that the industry will suffer more from any negative impacts at these price levels than it will by having e-bikes get slapped with a tariff. Sure, the dollar amounts per unit will be impressive on the e-bike side as far as impact, but there are way more Next bikes sold than e-bikes.

As a mechanic, while I see e-bikes being bandied about as "the next best thing" and while I see the alarmist reaction to this proposed tariff on the e-bike side, I wonder about the rest. The folks that I see that depend upon these lowly mart bikes as their sole means of transportation. They barely can afford to keep the bikes running they have now, and if this tariff goes into effect, it may price many of these folks right off getting new bicycles. Which, by the way, they do on a regular basis. People that cannot afford a tariff hike on an e-bike are, most likely, NOT relying on that bike as a sole means of transpo. They likely don't have the choice of "bike or walk".

Well, this bears watching, for sure, but I have to say that I am very disappointed in the cycling press and their blind eye to everything but e-bikes these days.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Fork Got Boosted!

The new "Firestarter 110 Carbon Deluxe Fork"
The news came out Friday, I believe, but the Ti Fargo was announced as a go again for 2019, which in reality means it will be another small batch that will be gone in a month or so. That is what happened last year. So......was the 2018 Fargo in Titanium really a 2018 model? Same can be said for this run..... Whatever! Marketing!

Leaving that behind the big deal now is that the Firestarter fork is now Boost 110. That means you won't have to be put in the awkward position of getting a non-boost front wheel and a Boost rear. (Or getting the reduction plates for the Alternator to make the rear standard 142mm through axle)

Basically- totally boosted now. But that's not all.....

Now there are four sets of Three Pack bosses, front-ish facing and rear-ish facing. I've always preferred the rearward facing cage position for bottles, myself, but now you have options. Added to this are fender mounts, low rider mounts, and internal routing for a dynamo hub. These are suspension corrected for 100mm travel and have 51mm of fork offset. I find that offset figure interesting since the standard steel fork and previous Firestarter Carbon forks are listed at 45mm offset.

Wheel sizes that work are standard 29"er, 29+, and 27.5+. So, Salsa is still claiming compatibility with all of those differing diameters.

Finally, this may or may not be a sign of things to come. My opinion was that if a Boost spaced Firestarter wasn't produced, it could be the end of the Fargo. But here we have that fork. The Fargo is ten years old as of the release of this so-called 2019 Titanium Fargo. Will their be an anniversary Fargo? Maybe...... I was asked about what I would do for one several years ago at the DK200 by a couple Salsa engineers close to the Fargo. Salsa has done anniversary models before. So, we will see in a month or two when Saddledrive happens, at which time Salsa generally releases news on the next model year.

Whatever happens my Gen I Fargo isn't getting replaced anytime soon.

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Hot But Chill Weekend

The sled for this weekend's Solstice 100 gravel race.
Man! Was it hot this past weekend. Just brutal humidity around here with temperatures in the 90's. I really wanted to push it and go long this weekend but I have to keep it chill for this coming weekend's Solstice 100 in Nebraska. Besides, it was Father's Day weekend and my family was wanting to spend time with me.

Friday I got a couple of wheel sets in and one of them I bought for the pink MCD project I have coming up. More on that in a minute, but there is another wheel set here for review on RidingGravel.com which is pretty cool. It is the Industry Nine Torch Road Ultralite CX 235 TRA wheels. I already own two sets of older I-9 single speed specific wheels and I have ridden on a couple of others. All have been spectacular in two ways- performance and looks. Well, this set that came in on Friday is no different- so far- in terms of those things. The looks are killer. Well, as long as you like anodized orange hubs and spokes! Of course, you could get other colors too.

I was really hoping that wheel set would get here in time for my attempt at the Solstice 100 this coming weekend in Nebraska. That wheel set went on the Jamis Renegade Elite, also on test at RidingGravel.com. What better way to test things out than at a 100 miler on unfamiliar gravel roads, eh?

Well, I got these set up tubeless with some tires I had and went on a brief test ride Saturday. Things should work out just fine here! The distinct I-9 "buzz" is there, and it is pretty loud. If you don't like a loud hub, than this ain't for you. But these wheels should help make the Nebraska hills a little less painful since they come in at a little over 1400 grams with tape and valve stems installed.

Irwin Cycles Aon GX 700c wheels
As mentioned, another wheel set came in and these are them. The Irwin Cycles Carbon Aon GX 700c wheels. I bought these for my pink BMC MCD which should be coming at the end of the month or the first part of July sometime.

These should be pretty tough wheels and I already know they set up really well tubeless. That would be because I tested the 650B version earlier and it worked great. My initial plan is to run these new wheels with the WTB Resolute tires.

The really interesting thing about the new MCD frame is that it is supposed to handle a 650B X 2.25 tire, and a 2.1 29"er Nano will barely fit, so lots of ways to go here. I should have a set of Compass Antelope Hill tires coming too, but I think those will be too much for the MCD. We will see.

Next up on the docket for parts acquisition is  a crankset. I spent some time on the phone with my old friend Ben Witt on Sunday talking about this. I really like the White Industries VBC crank set, but that is waaaay expensive. I just don't see anything else right now that competes with it on looks though. Especially on a pink steel frame. In my opinion, Ultegra is just too weird and "heavy" looking.

The rest of the weekend was pretty chill as far as activity went. I guess I did mow the lawn! Otherwise I was chillin' with the family on Sunday as it was Father's Day and they were wanting to spend some quality time with their Dad and of course, my wife wanted to spend some time with me as well.

So, that was my weekend. Hopefully it isn't this blazing hot this coming weekend in Nebraska.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Touring Series: Strangers In The Night!

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

  As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995. 



After a long day in the saddle the three intrepid riders found a convenience  store to refresh themselves. We now rejoin the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" which has rolled into Gillett, Wisconsin for an overnight stay.........
_____________________________________________________________________________
Just before coming out from the convenience store, Steve and Troy had made an inquiry of the cashier about potential camping spots. We weren't in too much of a hurry to find a spot, since there was enough daylight for the time being. What we didn't know was that the cashier had called the police in regards to us looking for a place to stay. So when the squad car pulled up right in front of us, and the window went down, and when the officer addressed us, well.........we thought we were in big trouble.

It turned out that the officer was merely looking out for us. He suggested we stay in the county fair grounds, which had plentiful lawn space, but not too close to the road, so as not to draw attention to ourselves. The fair grounds were right in town too, no long trip to get there. Bonus!

Well once we peeled ourselves up off the pavement and got over to take a look, we saw something much more appealing than the grassy lawn. A cattle barn, where show cows and livestock were bedded down during fair time, was all cleaned up with a nice smooth cement floor. Why set up tents when we could simply sleep in the cow barn? Troy and I laid out our sleeping pads and sleeping bags right on the concrete floor. Steve had a hammock and strung it up between two stalls across the aisle. We parked our bikes beside us, ate our meal for the evening, and settled in for a good nights sleep, just as the sun went down.


Location of Gillett, WI
I suppose it was about 2:30-3:00am in the morning when I was suddenly aroused by Steve's sudden yelp in the dark. Troy and I sat up suddenly, gripped in fear. We were surrounded by dark figures in the night! Somebody turned on a flashlight, which blinded our eyes.

Just then a sheepish voice could be heard. It was a young boy, about 10-13 years of age. I slowly focused on him and saw that he had several friends standing with him. Apparently he had seen us at the convenience store, and knew about the plans to stay in the fairgrounds. His friends didn't believe his story, so he was simply setting the record straight by showing his friends the evidence, and scaring us half to death in the process. He was very apologetic, and his friends were obviously scared, so we chatted with them to calm them down, and sent them on their way.

In a way, it reminded me of the wandering about town I used to do as a kid with my friends in the middle of the night in my small hometown. We never meant any harm, and everything took on an air of adventure at about 2:00am in the morning. I am quite sure these kids never forgot this little adventure they had back in 1994!

We went back to sleep, although cautiously,and slept till dawn with no further incidents. Once awake, we set to packing up, and discussing our strangers in the night. Outside it was cool, and it looked like it might be foggy. The plan was to get on out of Wisconsin and in to the U.P. of Michigan. Just what lay ahead, we had no idea.
___________________________________________________________________________

This was a chief memory from this tour. Obviously getting attention from law enforcement isn't what a group of three mangy looking cyclists wants. Typically we saw our selves as being marginal folk who were flying under the radar of any local officials and heck, of even the locals themselves. The less attention we got, the better, in our eyes. So you can imagine the relief we felt when we learned the cop was looking out for us. 

So the rousing of us out of our peaceful slumber was even worse. Then it swung the other way when we realized it was just some curious local kids being, well......kids. As I said, I empathized with those kids, having been exactly like them in my youth. Now I wonder how many of that group that awoke us in Gillett Wisconsin remember that night like I do.......

Next: Approaching Kitchi-gami

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 23 & 24

The Upper Iowa River at Decorah, June, 2008
Ten years ago, at the start of June, I had a bit of a discussion on crank sets concerning gearing and crank arm length for 29"ers. Oddly enough, going back to the earliest days of 29"ers in the late 90's, a bunch of Crested Butte residents on running the wagon wheelers decided that 170mm length crank arms was the schiznit for riding these new big wheels. I'm not sure why, or how they arrived at this, but it was out there in the early days. Run 170mm length arms. It's the way to do this dance. So, I did just that.

Now, I didn't do that right away. My very first 29"er had 177.5mm arms. That's right- 177.5mm arms. Anyone with a background in BMX or vintage mtb will know right off what I am referring to. That would be Cooks Brothers cranks. I still have them.........somewhere around here! Anyway......

I also was talking about the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. That was a 29"er demo/get together/festival we had planned up in Decorah. Well.......I say "we", but the reality was that it was "me". My partner at the time in Twenty Nine Inches was, let's say, "flaky"? Yeah...... Nuff said..... The point is that I was left doing all the heavy lifting on that project and I had a ton of time and effort into it. Then the rains came.

I've already mentioned it in previous "Minus Ten Review" posts this year, but 2008 was a really rough year in terms of weather in Iowa. The "Flood of 2008" won't soon be forgotten around here. That was the highest the water has ever been in many Iowa rivers since that date or before it. You can still go to many bridges and dikes in Iowa and see the high water marks people immortalized from this 2008 flood.

I was sent the image on today's post two weeks before the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo was to take place. On the left of center is where the people were to camp and set up the demo booths. It was under 15 feet of water at this point.

While the trails were high and dry in the bluffs, I had to make a call within a few days time of receiving this image to advise vendors. Many of which had to send demo vans from the Southwestern US. They needed advance notice on whether to come or not. If the event was to be cancelled, giving them two weeks notice would allow them to salvage something out of their plans by setting up demos elsewhere. So, I made the call to cancel the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo.

While this had nothing at all to do with Trans Iowa, this decision would shape what I would do with that event for the next decade. Stay tuned for why that was........

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday News And Views

NX Eagle- "Ease Of Entry" Component group, or just cheap?
Entry Level, Cheap, Budget Priced 1 X 12:

SRAM predictably dropped the quality of materials and manufacturing techniques enough that a full price range of Eagle components are now available. SRAM apparently is trying to spin the new NX Eagle as being an "ease of entry" group, but let's face it- it's a cheaper Eagle. Call it "budget", entry level, or whatever, but doing some new way of saying "this is the cheapest level" is kind of goofy. We get it- it costs less for a reason.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not bagging on SRAM, or NX Eagle. I just don't think their "marketing-speak" is genuine. The parts should be awesome. I've been thrashing 11 speed NX for two straight Winters on my Ti Muk and I see no reason why NX Eagle wouldn't be pretty much the same experience. It is what it is, so do not expect the most crisp, fastest shifting, great looking parts, or the lightest weights. You won't get that at this little amount of money. (You can buy the entire NX Eagle group for less than a top end Eagle Power Dome cassette.) What you will get is a good, yeoman's performance for a decent price.

To my way of thinking, Eagle only makes sense if you haven't already gone 1X, and/or if you need the range this group can give you. It isn't as good as the GX Eagle or above, because NX doesn't have the 10T fast cog. It fits Shimano cassette bodies though, so it can retrofit to older non-SRAMed rear wheels. So, on one hand, that could be a benefit to this, or it could be a bummer if ya gotta have that 10T cog.

Purrrrrrple!

My favorite color is purple. This happened to come about for me when I was young. I lived on a highway and it was the zenith of the muscle car era. I saw them all- Chevelles, Novas, GTO's, Road Runners, 'Cudas, Challengers, and Mustangs. Even the rare Daytona would come zooming by once in awhile.

Well, the Chrysler Corporation ran these special colors on their muscle cars like "Slime Lime", "Hemi Orange", and who could forget "Plum Crazy". Those purple machines were my favorites, and that matched up with my early love of the Vikings football team. But they let me down big time in '68. That's another story........

Of course, the 90's were famous for anodized colors and purple was the king of that for a while. I had a 1996 Bontrager Race which was Plum colored, a darker hue, with a yellow panel with red lettering. I had Paul MotoLite purple brakes, and a purple American Classic seat post on that rig. Yep! I love me some purple ano!  I even had the purple ano Surly hubs, and I still rock a purple Chris King head set on my Ti Muk.

Now Paul Components is going to do another special anodized run of parts and this time they are running with purple. Hmm.......maybe I should get some Purple Klampers for the new BMC MCD rig. We'll see. The thing is that the delivery of these parts isn't until late July/early August. I'd hoped to be done with the build by then. But still. purple ano........ 

These are the 650B Carbon Aon GX wheels, but 700c ones will be here today.
 The Pink Puzzle Update:

Building up a bike from a frame and fork is like piecing together a jig-saw puzzle. You need a LOT of different parts and pieces to make it work, and what makes things worse is that certain things are predetermined and certain things are wide open to interpretation. 

One of the puzzle pieces will arrive today in the form of a wheel set. I have been testing wheels from Irwin Cycling recently on RidingGravel.com and I have been thoroughly impressed to the point that I am buying a 700c set for my Pink Puzzle Build. These wheels feature nice hubs with 3.75° engagement and a super smooth set of bearings. But I am most impressed with how these wheels are precisely molded and that transfers to getting a great seal on the tubeless tires.

I've been beating the snot out of both wheel sets Irwin sent to have reviewed and I haven't killed them, or even put a dint in their "armor", besides a few cosmetic scratches from being plowed through mud holes I normally wouldn't ride through on my own equipment. So, I am thoroughly satisfied that they will hold up and be great wheels for several years.

There will be more updates on the Pink Puzzle Build coming soon....

In the meantime, have a great weekend and Happy Father's Day to those fathers out there!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Grunge, Gunk, and Grease

"Rumble......rumble......rumble....."

I could feel it when I was pushing a big gear on the Orange Crush. "Hmmm....... Gonna hafta change that bottom bracket soon!", I would think. On multiple occasions.......and never doing anything about it afterward! Well, I knew it could not last forever, and one day it would disintegrate while I was miles from home, likely, on a remote gravel road, of course, where Mrs. Guitar Ted would have to come and get me, and end up giving me the "stink eye", most assuredly.

Yes......I had to get that done and soon! The alternative probabilities did not sound that great to me. So, I bought an inexpensive Shimano replacement bottom bracket. It is hard to believe that these things cost less than an Acera rear derailleur but work as well as they do. I mean, just the machine work on a bottom bracket cup is far more precise than an Acera rear derailleur's is. Yeah.......I could spring for something better, but would they last as long as a Shimano bottom bracket? Maybe..... But I could probably buy several Shimano bottom brackets for the price of one, Chris King, let's say, and I think the value is there in the Shimano one. Plus, did you know that you can recycle the cups with new cartridge bearings? Yep..... You can. If you are industrious that way.

It's a dirty, gunky, greasy business, but someone has got to do it!

Of course, you simply do not just remove and replace a bottom bracket. Oh no! You end up cleaning up the frame while the crank is off to get to those otherwise hard to reach nooks and crannies of your frame. Then you clean up the front derailleur while you are at it. Then it's time for that nasty crank arm and rings. The cleaning up of the things takes far longer than it does the removing and replacing of the bottom bracket. It is a big, time consuming job when you do all of that stuff. But......it ain't gettin' done on its own, and the thought of having to make that possible bail-out call to Mrs. Guitar Ted......... nuh-uh! Not gonna happen!

Now watch. Something will break on my next long ride! I've done myself in! Ha!

All done! Ready to rumble down the road again, with a rumble-free BB that is!
 Well, once it was done and I had done a couple of other maintenance jobs while I was at it on the BMC, I ran it up and down the neighborhood to check my work. Seems good to go now. I am considering removing the fenders for the Summer, but........I don't know. Maybe I'll just finally trim back those stays on those fenders and leave them on. I have some new bar tape coming for this and I probably will change the cassette and chain for now. This will end up becoming the single speed gravel travel rig later in the year though. Once I get the pink MCD here and put together.

Then the gears and derailleurs will go away and I also will likely change out the handle bars to the good ol' Luxy Bar. Those are awesome for single speed use. It'll be fun to try this out as a single speed again after so many years of geared use.



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Different Ways Of Crankin'

Is "Super Compact" the future for adventure/gravel bikes?
I am in the midst of considering parts for my build of the forthcoming Black Mountain Cycles MCD frame and fork. So far I have wheels lined up, through axles, a head set in mind, and now I am considering crank sets and bottom brackets.

That link above takes you to the frame tech page for the MCD and there will see that the maximum chain ring configuration is 46T/36T, or a standard CX crank set ring combination. This is what Ive used most often and what I will likely do again. However; if you haven't noticed, there is a move afoot to bring radically different gearing to gravel and adventure bikes, spearheaded by FSA, who provides a LOT of OEM parts to builders.

Their idea is called "Super Compact" and it is wide range double chain ring set up. I know a lot of you think 1X is the solution, but a LOT of riders don't like it. Too big a jump between gears, for one thing, but there is more to it than that. However; I am not delving into that subject just yet.......

Super Compact gearing is kind of like what the old randonneuring gearing was like. Basically you have a "drive" gear, (outer chain ring) which you use more often. The inner ring, the "bail out gear" or "grannygear", was used on steep climbs or when there was a tough headwind or like circumstances where a low gear was desirable. The modern form of this gearing utilizes wide range rear cassettes to keep jumps between gears closer and more efficient.

I tried such a set up on the old Gen I Fargo, using a 48T outer and a 28T granny, if memory serves. Modern Super Compacts wouldn't have that much disparity between chain rings, but it is close. FSA is pushing 48T/32T or 46T/30 as options I could use. My experiences with this sort of gearing wasn't positive. Oh, it's just fine when you are in the big ring, but when you dump out to that smaller inner ring your cadence goes haywire and I, at least, lost a ton of momentum when I switched gears. As a "native single speeder", I loathe losing momentum. So, that was a big reason I bailed on that experiment with that gearing.

New Ultegra CX crank set
This is why I am seriously leaning toward going to traditional cyclo cross gearing, which is 46T/36T. I like to use an 11T-36T cassette with that gearing, and I have a few reasons why I really have gravitated toward this gearing. Of course, the minimal jump between chain rings helps preserve momentum, which you probably already guessed.

The other reason that is important to me is probably pretty weird. I admit to a bit of a "Princess and the Pea" syndrome here, so bear with me on this one. See, I have very often been riding and thought, "Dang! This gear feels awesome today!" I can feel more power and just a more efficient pedal stroke many times in certain gear combinations, and probably 99.9% of the time when I bother to check, I have a dead straight chain line.

You may think, "So what?", and I get that, but a straight chain line is the most efficient one to pedal in. This is maybe something I tuned in to from my single speed days, but cross chaining makes me feel like I am working harder, many times. Not always. But every time I feel awesome about a gear, it is a straight chain line. So, I don't like the thought of running a "drive gear" and a "bail out gear". When the chain starts climbing the cassette, I like to switch to an inner chain ring and not jack my cadence up way over 100/minute when doing so. Obviously, I also can keep the chain straighter.

Now, some of you may be thinking, "Aha! We should still be riding triple chain ring cranks!" I would partially agree with that. In fact, I set my Badger custom bike up with a triple. That said, these newer gravel bikes, by their nature, are trying to also give us the shortest chain stays, (not really that necessary) with the widest tire clearances with an eye toward 650B mtb width tires. (Again- not all that necessary) So, triple cranks are a non-starter there.

I know that I could maintain a straighter chain line with a triple, but to some degree, the narrower chain rings and cogs we run now in combination with the best materials technology cyclists have ever enjoyed make a triple crank not quite the "no-brainer" that it used to be.

I haven't gotten back to that 1X commentary yet, but I'll save it for another day. Suffice it to say that since both SRAM and Shimano have filed patents and are working on chain sets that adjust for chain line misalignment inherent in 1X set ups, you can bet that your 1X system has too many inefficiencies. Otherwise, why would they bother? 

Stay tuned.........................


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Changes At HQ

Mrs. Guitar Ted scored this palatial desk unit for the HQ.
The weekend here didn't turn out quite the way that I had planned. Friday we had some doozies for thunderstorms and we got torrential rain most of the night. That made me take pause for riding gravel right away in the morning, so the son needed his hair cut and we headed out to have breakfast together first. That was about the only thing I planned all day that went down according to plan.

So, after breakfast we headed to Butler & Son's Barber Shop, (HIGHLY recommended if you're ever in the area), and they were, not surprisingly, VERY busy. So I bailed on that plan and we went back home.

It was super humid and I, not using my brain, decided it was time to trim the sidewalk edges. I figured it would be great "heat training" for upcoming rides. In this time I also got the Ergon saddle I reviewed recently swapped over to Mrs. Guitar Ted's bike. Well, one of her two bikes. She has a Kona "Africa" single speed rig. That's where that saddle now resides. Well, she wanted to go check it out and took off for a ride. She'd been gone quite some time when I got a text message with a picture of a desk. She asked what I thought of it, the thinking being it would replace my crumbling computer desk I've been bashing out words on for over a decade. Probably since 2005.

Well, suffice it to say that it (obviously) came home. Talk about changing plans! No more yard work! On to the switcheroo. Now, it sounds simple enough. We were just going to switch desks out. But........yeah, right! You may as well have dropped a bomb in the house. First off, this new desk is HUGE! It is easily twice as big as my old thing here. That meant we had to do some measuring and some hard decisions were made. Two crummy book shelves filled with books and.......well, whatever landed on them for the last 15 years or so, had to be emptied, gone through, and cleared off. We were getting rid of them. The stuff on them had to be sorted through, and a lot of that was binned. Good riddance!

My 2010 DK200 receipt for the event's 200 miler.
Another thing that happens when you sift through a decade plus of detritus is that you may find little gems from the past. One thing I came across was my receipt for my race entry in the 2010 DK 200. Yep, you're seeing that right, fifty measly bucks got you in. Now granted, it was an entirely different experience back then than it is now. Completely different in almost every way, in fact. Back then it was still a small event. Only 160 started the 200 miler. So, yeah, fifty bones to ride seems like a good deal but the DK was a much smaller and easier to manage race back then.

And I sucked that year! Too hot and windy and I didn't have a clue what to do about it. Now I would have used an ice pack on my back and I likely would have gotten past CP#1, but after two years of getting kicked in the teeth down there I never went back but once more in 2015. That year I missed the second and last checkpoint by two measly minutes with less than 50 miles to go. It's ironic, but by then, a mere five years later, the DK200 was pretty much what you might know it to be now. Crazy how that event grew so fast! 

My unused 1997 NORBA license.
Then I came across another gem. An unused 1997 NORBA license. This was back when I was serious about cross country racing. There were big changes in my life in the time between 1995 and 1999. I won't get into all of that here now, but suffice it to say that just about everything I knew changed in those four years.

I had high hopes for 1997 and racing. I had been getting better at XC racing and had been doing some things in a more disciplined manner as far as training and what not. But when my first bike shop job dried up in February of '97 I had to find something else for employment and fast. I had a house payment to make every month and bills to pay. I was single at that time, and I didn't have anyone to turn to for help. I found a job as a car mechanic, which was a 60 hour a week job, and extremely physically draining. I think I tried going to one race that year, a non-Norba deal down in Illinois, and things just went pear shaped in a big hurry. I remember riding home in a teammate's car that time and deciding I was done. The whole idea of driving more hours than a race took, taking up an entire day, paying for it, and not having fun at all was, in my opinion, just plain stupidity. That was the end of mountain bike racing for me for ten years.

Anyway, I had no clue I'd even bought a license, and when I found it, I was floored. Weird stuff gets squirreled away in odd places, I guess. I've no idea why this license made it the last 20 plus years! But, it is evidence that I once was an XC mtb racer. So, there's that, I guess.

The process of switching over to the new desk is ongoing. I will likely be upgrading to a new computer as well, so by the time we finish this process I will have revolutionized my "nerve center" for the blog here. But you probably, hopefully, won't notice a thing. I still will be banging out text here with the same two fingers I've been using to do this with since 2005.