Friday, February 22, 2019

Friday News And Views

From my last trip to Frostbike. Maybe my last one ever?
Frostbike 2019:

Another February, another Frostbike. Another Frostbike I won't be going to. This makes it four years in a row that I haven't gone to the dealer only show in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I probably am seen as a liability to those in the legal department at Quality Bicycle Products. (Hold that thought) I used to get invited personally every year, but since 2015, I haven't been invited at all, except through the "general admission" channel which dealers get. I am not in charge of that at my shop and those who are don't ask if I want to go, or bother to sign me up when I do express interest, so whatever..... It is what it is. Anyone who thinks I should have gone just needs to ring up the shop where I work and put a plug in for me next time. It isn't that I won't go, just so you know.

So back to the "liability" comment. See, when I used to go to Frostbike, it was complete mayhem, generally. Yeah, I know most of you reading this think I am a level headed dude, for the most part, but Frostbike was the scene of some of my more outlandish examples of misbehavior. The former Northfield bicycle shop, Mike's Bikes, being the primary venue, but there were other times. Like that time I got then Salsa Cycles head honcho, Jason Boucher's car towed. Or that time a bunch of us were traversing barriers in a parking garage with three story drops. Or how about the last time I went, where I walked from downtown Minneapolis to the 494 loop in the middle of the night with nothing but a cotton hoodie for a coat in 17°F weather in the snow.

There was the time I crashed a dealer only party upstairs at QBP, and several times I was in places I wasn't cleared to be in. Yeah....... Those were the days, or so they say. Anyway, I lived a lifetime of hi-jinx at Frostbike so not going is probably adding years to my life.

Anyway...... Surly is set to introduce an e-bike and Salsa is set to introduce new FS mountain bikes. There will be media press release blitz packages broadcast everywhere. This and more media splashes will occur making the going to Frostbike pretty much superfluous. Besides, Minneapolis is supposed to get a blizzard this weekend. Ah! The joys of the internet!

The Honest Air gauge left a bit to be desired.
Blackburn Honest Air Digital Gauge: Mini-Review:

Back in November I got this Blackburn "Honest Air" digital tire pressure gauge. It is supposed to read your pressure and give you an audible prompt when it has that reading for you. Then it holds that reading until you dismiss it. The gauge was made to read Presta or Schrader tubeless valves/tubes.

The head swivels to reach awkward angles and leave the gauge readable. There is also a bleed valve to bleed off excessive pressure until an optimum pressure has been reached.

I liked the portability and that an audible prompt let you know that you had an accurate reading. Valve type compatibility isn't a top priority with me, but the head looked like it was very suitable for Presta valves so I was fine with that. Initial tests with the gauge after I purchased it proved to be good. I figured I was off to a good experience with this gauge.

That wasn't to be the case, however. I tried using the gauge to monitor pressure in my fat bike's tires after riding in 10°F weather and I had a lot of difficulty even getting the gauge to read anything at all. In use on one tire, I had to try three times to get the gauge to read, and the other tire proved that the gauge simply would not read anything at all.

Was it the cold? I tried just the other day to read the pressure on the same fat bike tires after the bike had warmed up after several hours indoors. I still had issues with getting a reading. I had to try three times to get the gauge to give me any reading at all.

Unfortunately buying the Honest Air digital gauge has proven to be a frustrating purchase. When it does read a pressure, it is accurate, but I cannot abide by a product that only works in a random fashion. The Honest Gauge is a subpar effort, in my opinion.

Note- The Honest Air Digital Gauge was purchased by Guitar Ted with his own money. He was not paid, nor bribed for this review. 

Guitar Ted and his snow pile.
Snow Record:
Well, we did it. We broke the record for February snow fall recorded in Waterloo, Iowa. I've lived here since 1991 and I have never piled up snow this high before.

By the way, I'm standing in front of one of about four piles I've shoveled this high. Not to brag, but to say, "We've gotten a lot of snow in the last few weeks." As N.Y. Roll would remind me if he were here right now, this ain't nuthin' compared to upstate New York's "lake effect" band, but for Iowa, this is a bit unusual. Anyway, this and whatever we get this weekend, (supposedly another big dump, or mostly rain, depending on who you believe), will make for a very interesting March. 

Obviously, the Sun is going to win, and very soon. Winter will retreat, and as it does, all this snow is going to become water, and that will need to go..........somewhere. Now, I am no climatologist, hydrologist, or expert in that way, tell me I am crazy if ya want to, but I think flooding is in our future. Yep. And it may end up becoming a real big problem if we have a wet Spring.

Another thing I am betting on and that is that we will have snow in the ditches yet for the C.O.G. 100. N.Y. Roll says "no". Guess we will have to make a wager out of this. Stay tuned........

That's it for this week. Have a great week. Go CIRREM riders!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Lauf Debuts New All Road Bike

Lauf "Anywhere" bike in Green/black.
Wait! What About The Fork?

Lauf has made a name for itself in the gravel cycling circles by flooding events with that Grit fork as prizing and being sponsors of many of these same events and others as well. How they manage to sling so much product out there with (apparently) so few natural sales of the Grit fork is beyond me. But whatever.... I'm not a marketing genius. I just make observations.

My brother MG loves the True Grit complete bike offering from Lauf.. He reviewed one for here. He liked the fork and pretty much everything about the bike. It does have a high, (cyclo cross high), bottom bracket at 68mm drop, but MG said it didn't seem to affect the bike's stability. I was intrigued, but I have to admit, that Grit fork is damn ugly. Really ugly. It has no redeeming aesthetic value at all, in my opinion. This coming from a guy who gets weak in the knees when he sees a bi-plane crown fork, so take that for what it is worth.

I may not be alone though, as Lauf has introduced a new bike with a rigid fork. It's called the "Anywhere". Lauf's marketing points to a road rider as the target audience, but a road rider looking to get off the pavement. Smart decision to drop the Grit fork and focus on vibration damping from the handle bar and the insanely light carbon fork. Road traditionalists are, generally, pretty conservative with regard to aesthetics and that fork is.......ghastly. Sorry, it just is. Okay..... nuff's enuff. 

The handle bar is said to have a carbon layup that is very forgiving.
 Anyway, the Anywhere's fork has the bottle bosses that many who ran the Grit fork complained about not having. So, it may end up being a better rig for endurance and bike packers who need as much water carrying capacity as possible.

The frame is said to be the same as the True Grit's in another report I read, but that has not been confirmed. Lauf does say it takes a 45mm tire, so that is a hopeful sign. It very well may be the same frame as the True Grit since the bottom bracket drop seems similar as do the other geometry bits.

Speaking of which, let's delve into that. The geometry on this bike is odd. Lauf says riders should be on a longer front center and riders should use shorter stems, ala the current geometry du jour in the mountain biking world. Whether that plays well in the real world with folks from a road cycling background, riders which this seems to be aimed at, is unclear. I'm guessing it will be found to be kind of odd.

From my perspective, not being a road oriented rider, I like the 71° head angle and using a shorter stem doesn't bother me much. It is that high bottom bracket that raises my eyebrow. However; MG says it is no big deal. I would listen to him, so this may be something to check out. I do like the green and black one, so that would be the one I'd choose but for one glaring misstep.

They added a couple of sizes to the range and that was definitely needed. However, Lauf still refuses to support a cable driven front derailleur, and that unnecessarily limits this bike's appeal, in my opinion. I would go so far as to say that this decision was rather daft. Why cut off a significant portion of your possible sales to make a stand on 1X drive trains? Weird.

Well, if I were to get one of these, I would have to rig a front derailleur onto it or I wouldn't be interested, and it would be a cable operated one. I have a pretty good idea how I would go about it too. Anyway, I don't think I'll be having to worry about that anytime soon. There are too many other choices that do support a front derailleur without resorting to electronic, and therefore more expensive, shifting.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

WW4M: Rokform "Rugged" Phone Case

I got an orange case so this is easier to see in a bag or whatnot.
"WW4M" reviews are periodic reviews of "what works for me". Today I take a look at a phone case. 

I recently got a brand new phone. My first one in many years, since generally I get Mrs. Guitar Ted's hand-me-down phones. This time we both upgraded. Anyway, that necessitated a brand new phone case. Not a very "cool" accessory, but if you lead an active lifestyle, and you want your phone to survive, you'd probably better get a good, protective phone case.

Background: Mrs. Guitar Ted and I have been through various phone cases. I have tried Lifeproof, Mophie, and some others in the murky, distant past I cannot recall at this point. Most of them did their job. The Lifeproof was very good at warding off the elements, but it made using the phone a chore. The Mophie barely held it together for me, but then again, I was sweating on it constantly, putting it through bumpy gravel rides, and exposing it to copious amounts of dust. Frankly, I cannot believe I never broke the screen on my old iPhone. Anyway.....

The point is that I am hard on phones/phone cases. So, going in I knew I needed something better and I mentioned to Mrs. Guitar Ted that I had seen a company called Rokform and that they had a cool product, or at least I thought so. Now there is one thing I need to make perfectly clear and that is that Mrs. Guitar Ted has to sign off on anything "techy" I get and she isn't easy to impress. So when she said she liked what she was seeing, we ordered up a case for myself, (and one for her as well), and not long afterward we got a package delivered with the cases from Rokform.

The case I got is the "Rugged" case for an iPhone 8s, (I think the 8s is what I have. I don't keep track of that stuff.) So...... I actually installed the phone into its case which was easy, but a couple of things to note here. Check out the image to the left here and note the "cross" looking circular deal. That is a plug I opted for, (sold separately), which if you don't get, allows you the option of locking the case into a few accessory mounts Rokform sells. It kind of works like a Garmin mount, so it's pretty secure, but I didn't want to go that route. Then there is the black patch below that. Okay, in there is a circular magnet which looks like a puck. I got the optional magnet which allows for cordless charging. A neat feature which makes charging the phone from a dock possible. Anyway, that magnet also can be used as a mount, and Rokform has a few accessory items that work off that as well.

The case fits over the edges of the phone like a tire on a rim, leaving the face exposed.
The magnet thing is safe, so you don't have to worry about degaussing your data or anything like that. Plus, it helps keep your phone stabilized on metal surfaces which attract a magnet. Like say, a tool box, which comes in handy at work, because I cannot easily knock my phone off my tool box now. Anyway, that might prove to be handy in other ways at some point.

The accessory item Mrs. Guitar Ted got looks like an aluminum kickstand and attaches via magnetism to the back. That bit props the phone up so you can use it like a mini-computer, which, it is, actually. That also has a bottle opener on it, for those so inclined to have a frosty beverage while checking social media. There is also a magnetic gizmo that mounts to your dashboard vent in a car that you can use with this case as well. Mrs. Guitar Ted got that little thing also.

So, as you can see to the left here the face of your phone is wide open to use as usual. Of course, there is a screen protector on there, but you aren't going to want to be dropping anything on that side, obviously. Still, I'd rather have it that way than have another layer of armor to fight with to make the little device work. Plus, the case seals up around the edges with a perfect fit. It's almost like mounting a tire to a rim, the case fits that snugly on the phone. I cannot say it is waterproof, but I bet it keeps out 90% of anything you expose the phone to. The edges are a hard rubbery deal which are very beefy on the corners. I've no doubt that if I drop this on a hard surface that the case will help prevent damage.

And so far it has. I've been using this as I would during cycling, activities outdoors, and during daily life. The mounting possibilities are many, and I think I'm going to end up with a sticky puck for my truck's dash to mount my Rockform case to. (The vents on my truck are too weak to hold up the vent mount) That'll be handy when I use my phone as a navigation device in strange areas.

The "Rugged" case is just what I had hoped for and I think it is going to work out fine with my gravel cycling and whatnot throughout the year and beyond. I will update this if anything else of note comes up.

NOTICE: Guitar Ted spent his own damn money on the Rokform "Rugged" iPhone case and was not paid, nor bribed, for this post. So there!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Mashed Potatoes

Looks fantastic, doesn't it? Too bad it was not solid enough for riding.
Lots of snow means lots of work to be done, not only for shoveling, (see yesterday's post), but also for any recreating opportunities. XC skiing, fat biking, or hiking mean that deep snow needs some "conditioning" to get any appreciable "good times" out of it. I suppose you could snow shoe. I'm just so lucky that my snow shoe bindings bit the dust last year. meh!  they were only 19 years old..... HA! Nothing lasts forever, I get it!

I had heard that an attempt at grooming the Green Belt for fat biking had taken place so I figured on checking it out after doing some morning clean up with the shovel. It snowed a bit......again.....over night, plus the snow plows went through early in the morning.

The Sun is getting higher in the sky now, so much so that you can feel some power in those rays. More direct light was making snow melt in places where the light was hitting it and slush and water were all over the city streets. Maybe this would crust over the packed in trail? I didn't know how well it had been set in or with what method. When I got out to the Green Belt, I saw that they had used snow shoes.

From my past experiences, you have to snow shoe in a trail about ten times, back and forth, to get the snow compacted enough with snow shoes to have any support with fat bike tires later on. At least it is that way with the "sugar snow" we normally get anymore around here. I knew this attempt had been an "out and back", so what I found wasn't a big surprise. It was all mashed potatoes.

That wasn't rideable, so after about 20 yards past the dike I did an about face and walked my rig out of the Green Belt. It looked tempting, and I would have really enjoyed it back there, but it wasn't to be. I probably should have XC skied it, actually. But whatever...... I went back home via alleys and even with a ton of car packing the snowy alleyways, the snow wasn't very easy to ride on. It just isn't very supportive.

And now I hear we're supposed to get more than a half a foot of new snow tonight and tomorrow. Bah! Bring on Spring. This crap snow and late Winter action is for the birds.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Cross Training

Maybe the biggest pile I've made in 28 years.
Winter waited and waited to come, and then it seems that it is trying to make up for lost time. That said, February is the snowiest month here in Iowa in general. So, no big surprise that it is snowing about every three days.

The big surprise is how much it has been snowing. Apparently we here in Waterloo are about double for seasonal snow fall totals already, and it is supposed to snow Wednesday and later this weekend.

So, here at the Guitar Ted productions headquarters, I am in charge of snow removal. I've never owned a snow blower, but I've had a few good shovels. My main shovel now is a steel one about three feet wide. I like it. I can move a good amount of snow with that tool.

Anyway, my son helps me now, of course, as he is 15 and a half years old and bigger than I am. But his job is clearing the widows walk and driveway down the street, because we try to take care of her that way. My job is our place, plus I clear a bit of the parking out in the street so Mrs. Guitar ted, a Texan, can make it in and out of the street in front of our house without fear of getting stuck.

Now maybe I go a bit too far, but I clear about a third of the street out toward the center and at least three car lengths out front. I have the "Truck With No Name" to think of, ya know! Anyhow, these big snows of late have really been putting me to the test. Not only that, but where I have to throw the snow now is getting pretty ridiculous.

Today's image is from last night. It's one of three piles that big, and actually, the other two are arguably bigger, but anyway, the point is that I count it as training. Even if it isn't training, it is, because my body says so. I've been sore like I haven't been sore in many years. That and tired. Very tired......

So, yeah, no bicycling or skiing of late. Too tuckered out from launching shovel fulls of snow ten feet in the air over and over again.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Touring Series: A Day At Sylvan Lake

A Guitar Ted productions series

 Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale, mostly as it was posted on the blog in 2009. There are some new edits and additions. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. There will be two more weeks. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more. 

"The Race Against Death Tour" is camped out at the Rafter J-Bar Ranch.........

August 15, 1995: After doing a measly 27.6 miles the day before, and hanging out the rest of the day, we were all pretty refreshed and rested considering all the brutal riding and weather we'd seen so far on this trip. The weather here in the Black Hills was optimum. Cooler than we'd had, sunny, and not at all windy. In fact, you could say it was about perfect. We decided to hit up Hill City for breakfast and we rolled the short way into town to find a decent place to eat. We seemed to be oddballs, outcasts, and drifters to the local populace. I suppose "touristas" were all treated this way, but as we were from a non-tourist destination, we didn't quite "get it", and we were a bit put off by the attitudes we seemed to be attracting.

We eventually settled on a place and ate. It was nice to not be in a hurry, but after so may days of hustling, it felt weird too. We ate our breakfasts and the we went and ambled about the town a bit. I recall walking in one place that was kind of a tourist trap joint. I don't remeber much about it other than that they had a Fender Bandmaster amplifier head for sale. I always wished later that I would have found a way to buy that......

After taking our leisure we had decided that the Sylvan Lake option was our best bet . Especially in regards to Troy's knee. It was feeling better, but he didn't want to stress it out climbing all the hills around here and we really didn't have a lot of time. Especially since we goofed off all morning. So off we went in search of the Needles Highway and Sylvan Lake.
Ryan using the rock climbing shoes he had packed for over a week from Iowa at Sylvan lake.

The climb up started not far from where we had camped. It was sort of gradual for about a half mile, then we saw them. Switch backs! Real, honest to goodness switch backs! It was pretty amazing to climb up this road. It went on for six miles like this, and then we saw the turn off to Sylvan Lake right as things leveled out a bit.

The turn off was lined with cars waiting to get in, so we three just fell in line. Waiting our turns, we chatted and laughed. It was a relaxing, fun time with no pressure. Not like we normally had on the bikes up to this point. When we got within eyesight of the Ranger's hut, we were waved up. We looked around like, "Who? Us?!", and we went around the cars of scowling faces. We were told by the Ranger at the hut that bicycles get in for free. No need to wait in line to pay! Yes! Bicycle benefits! Me likey!

Once we entered the park, the awe inspiring landscape of Sylvan Lake took us in, and we began to cruise around checking out the place. We saw rock climbers and hikers everywhere. The spires of rock jutting straight up out of the lake were like something out of a sci-fi movie set. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before, nor since then.

Ryan had his rock climbing shoes in his pannier, just in case he saw a place in the Rocky Mountains where he could spend time trying them out. Well, we weren't going to make it out there now, but this would certainly do! Troy tried a little bit, but I was content to watch. After Ryan had his fill of that, we relaxed a bit, got some photos, and decided to head back down the mountain for the campground and supper.

The six mile screaming downhill of switch backs was pretty hairy. Ryan almost rolled a tire, and my bike was skipping across the pavement on the skinny roadie tires. I was used to fat mountain bike treads, not these 35mm Avocets! I went as fast as I could, but Troy and Ryan had better handling bikes and left me in their dust. Oh well! It only took 13 minutes to descend that 6 miles, so it wasn't long until I caught back on at the bottom.
The three "Race Against Death" tourists- (L-R) Ryan, GT, Troy

Back at the campground, we hit up another game of hacky-sack, then cooked up our last meal on the road. The next day, Ryan's Dad was heading out to meet us at 9am in Hill City to pick us up with a trailer for our bikes to ride in. The end started to settle in on our minds. This trip would be over soon, and we all retreated into silence as the night time advanced.

I suppose it is hard to explain what one feels after such an ordeal. Especially when you sense a bond with your fellow travelers that goes beyond your comfort level to express. Silence becomes your only option at that point, I suppose, because you know you are heading down a different path once the fellowship is broken.

At any rate, we hit the tent for the last time on "The Race Against Death Tour".

I look back at this now after so many years and realize how precious that day was. I think I had an inkling of the importance of it even then. I didn't want the day to end, as I recall. It was so heavy a feeling that, for all intents and purposes, I don't really remember anything after running down that mountain on our bicycles. That is something that seems fresh in my mind yet. Perhaps that was the defacto "end" of the trip in my mind. I don't know.

Another practical way to look at this was that it would have been the "end" no matter what. Troy's knee issues notwithstanding, we were all out of cash. Without money, we weren't going anywhere much beyond where we had made it. Those times were different. We had a couple of credit cards, but the reality of those days was that cash was king. Small, out of the way places, weren't always up on accepting credit cards, especially from three young vagrants on bicycles.

It was not sinking in yet at the end of this day that I had a very different reality coming to slap me in the face in about 24 hours time. My world was about to change back to reality, and fast.

Next Week: The Load Out

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Minus Ten Review- 2009-7

A Shimano 11- 36T cassette. Really low gearing circa 2009.
Ten years ago on the blog I was talking about a new cassette for 29"ers. A Shimano 11-36T version which was a response to not having low enough gears for 29 inch wheeled bikes. The 36t low cog was considered "extraordinary"at the time. Really.

Up until this point you could get 11-34T cassettes and that was as low as things went. Of course, we had triple cranks in those days, so really low rear gearing wasn't necessary. Well, for most folks it wasn't. There were those out West clamoring for lower gears for their extended climbs.

This may all seem rather odd in a day when rear cog sizes have grown to 50T, but again- triple cranks. Remember those? With them you could keep your chain line straighter, have closer ratios, and not wear things out as quickly. But short chain stays, big, "plus" sized tires on wide rims, and funky-monkey rear suspension designs pushed front derailleurs, and close spaced rear cassettes, off the radar.

My prediction is that, along with a swing back from the "short. slack, and low" geometry of today, we will see front derailleurs make a comeback as well. Maybe not triple front cranks, but you never know. The geometry and gearing that is out now just seems weird to me. It is so DH focused that average climbing and descending seems to be a concept lost on most designers. Front ends wander, weight is so rearward biased, and bottom brackets scrape terra firma.

 I'm sure the geometry works in some places, but to have to have everyone deal with it is weird. It used to be that companies were known for their "geographical geometries". Trek was Mid-West single track, Specialized was West Coast driven, and Cannondale had "Eastern woods geometry". Consumers had choices. Now you may as well pick blindfolded as most geometries are pretty much identical again, as in the old "NORBA Geometry" days.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday News And Views

All the engagements
Industry 9 Introduces New Hubs:

Industry 9, the high engagement, colorful, US made hub company from North Carolina introduced a new, high engagement hub this week. You maybe saw that somewhere on social media. If not, it is a new, closer tolerance hub that engages slightly quicker than the old ones.

Kind of a big deal, but in the grand scheme of things, it is a minor curiosity. That said, you'd think that the Pope had declared he was an atheist, by the reactions I saw, and I think that is just weird. Some folks declared you should just buy another, "instant engagement hub" from another US company. Some said the math was wrong that I-9 used. Some folks said the new hubs would have more drag......yada,yada,yada...... 

Here's my take: High engagement hubs are okay as long as they are (1) strong, (2) free rolling, and (3) don't weigh a lot. Otherwise, I could care less what the engagement is, what the degrees of free play is, or what have you. Why? Because I never have failed to make a move, climb a hill, or accelerate due to "lack of engagement". Now, I have had free hubs slip, pawls crap out, and bearings go bad. Those are far, far higher on my list of concerns than "free play" or whatever. But don't get into it with someone who is a free hub zealot. Sheesh! 

Oh yeah. Noises. Free hub "clackety-clack". Some folks get bent about the noises, or lack thereof. Honestly, I usually tune that out if it exists and don't mind if it doesn't. I've got far more important things to pay attention to when I ride, like wild flowers, the clouds, how the Sun hits that field "just so", and getting up the next hill. Your mileage may vary. 

But yeah, I like anodized hubs, US made stuff, and wheels. So, I may be getting a set of these this year.

Salsa Cycles twitter account posted this yesterday.
New FS Bike From Salsa Cycles On The Horizon?

In the cycling industry there is a concept called "product cycle", in which a certain concept or way of making something serves the market and then is "retired", redesigned from the "ground up", or what have you. The full suspension line up from Salsa Cycles seems to have run its course, judging by the lack of available product, so it seemed reasonable to think yesterday that a teaser seen on twitter was the harbinger of something new.

Words can be hints as well as images, so the text on the Tweet I saw referred to "rustling" and of course, you probably remember the Ponyrustler FS bike Salsa did for a few years. Yes.....that could as easily be a way to put us off the trail too. I realize that. But none the less, here we have a hint at something new coming soon.

You know, Frostbike is coming up next weekend, right? Well, there is a good chance that whatever is being hinted at here will be revealed then. If it isn't ready, then I'd say Sea Otter would be your next best release date. But I am betting Frostbike will be the venue that will be the reveal for whatever the heck it is we're looking at here.

Frostbike! Ah......the memories! I recall the good times well. I haven't been to a Frostbike for several years now. The reason being is that my workplace is in charge of the "getting registered" bit and never happens. So, once again, I will not be at Frostbike. Just know that it is beyond my control to do anything about that these days.

Waterloo is to be commended for at least attempting to look out for cyclists and peds.
Taking Care Of The Citizens- All Of Them:

Multi-use paths, (bike paths), are great. Recreation is important, but many communities are just now figuring out that plain ol recreating doesn't promote long term healthy lifestyles. (generally speaking here) However; practical, purposeful routes- routes that actually are useful and take you somewhere and back again- really do help communities get more healthy. People are apt to use routes to schools, stores, and work places more often than recreational trails and therefore they become healthier, they reduce "traffic", and cut down on gas and oil use. That is great to see happening where it is happening and all, but if you don't maintain routes in Winter, then everything comes to a screeching halt.

This goes for pedestrians as well. If you think people stop using routes for foot and cycle traffic in Winter, well, you haven't seen all the tracks I'm seeing out there. Tracks of people, bicycles, people with walkers, carts, and people with small children in strollers. There are a LOT of people that cannot, won't, or don't often drive a motor vehicle. I know it seems crazy, but it is true.

That's why I find a bit of pride welling up inside me when I see how well Waterloo, Iowa takes care of its paths in Winter. The image here is from my commute on Thursday morning, just two short days after a major snowstorm. Nicely done! I was able to make it to work by bicycle easily since the City of Waterloo has chosen to take care of its people. Thank you!

And that is a wrap for this week. I hope y'all have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

C.O.G. 100 Update

The latest on the inaugural C.O.G. 100 is that we are on track to get things done in time for the event. So, I'm pretty happy with where N.Y. Roll and I are with things so far. The latest detailed update follows.....

Hats: The hats are done and in N.Y. Roll's possession. Remember- you have to actually show up to the event to get your hat. We are not in the business of shipping hats to folks who can't be arsed to show up, so don't even ask us.

That said, we are stoked on the final product. I guess they are "trucker hats", but I don't know about that. Real "trucker hats", at least the ones I remember from the '70's, were really tall in front. Like almost flat, not really rounded. Anyway, these do have the mesh back, so that part is right.

I used to have a friend back in the 90's that told me all the time that "quality caps have 8 stitched bands on the bill". Well, count 'em. Eight stitches. Quality defined. (Ha!) That same friend always said that eight banded bills would hold up to your forming no matter what. Yes folks......flat brim was stupid back in the day. And anyway, my head is so long and narrow that "flat brimming" a hat is a no go on my noggin' So, call me retro, but my bill is curved, yo......

One more thing. It doesn't show here, but the logo is made from shiny thread. It's pretty "bling-tacular" if I do say so myself. But that aside, Tony at Bike Rags got the feel and look of my logo down 100%. It's really spot on.

So, that was a lot of non-sense about the hats, but that ain't all. We have one other special thing we're doing, and it's currently in process, but I do have an example to share today.........

Excuse the poor lighting, but this is the proof of the poster which we are printing for each rider.
Poster: The art work for the C.O.G. 100 poster came from an "Inktober" challemge I was doing with my daughter last year. I thought this was appropriate as a poster for the event, so I had my daughter tweak it out a bit and we added the logo, and boom! 

There will be one poster for each rider that shows up. Limited run of prints here which will be signed and numbered by myself and my daughter. We're pretty excited to get these out. Right now my daughter has about half of what we need printed and is doing these in her art class at school.

N.Y. Roll has insurance duties,and I'm not sure where he is on that, but he mentioned needing to get that done recently, so I trust he's on it. Once the snow clears out we'll do a final recon and cue sheets will be printed right after that. Then we have an event! Oh....... and one more thing. We have been talking about meeting anyone that cares to, the night before the event. Nothing "mandatory", just time to converse and see those we haven't seen in awhile. We plan on hanging out at the Peace Tree Brewing- Grinnell Branch. This will also be the unofficial-official hang out after the event too. More details soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Long Talk With Jeff

The Blackborow from a recent ride.
Late January of this year I posted about my desires for a mountain bike. This, apparently, got the attention of Jeff Jones of Jones Bicycles. Jeff reached out to me and asked that I call him so we could speak about this.

I missed the call and a week later I finally connected with Jeff. He talked to me for an hour and discussed his vision about what a "bicycle" in 2019 should be for most people. We covered styles of riding, set ups, tires, wheels, handle bars, and about everything you could think of concerning bicycles.

There were a lot of take-aways, but the one I wanted to focus on today was about the Carbon H-Bar that I have on my Blackborow. Jeff explained to me the concept about the H-Bar, how he thought it should be set up, and it's benefits in his design schemes.

The number one thing he told me was that a lot of people erroneously think you need a longer stem when switching out to a H-Bar. Jeff says you probably should seriously take a look at going shorter on your stem length. Jeff explained that while portions of the H-Bar will stick back further than your original bars, the forward parts of the H-Bar need to be easily accessible without overly stretching out or scootching forward on your saddle. In fact, Jeff said your H-Bar isn't set up right if you have to move back and forth on your saddle to reach all the intended grip positions. 

He also explained that you might want to raise up the bar via using a riser stem, as the idea with "Jones geometry" is that you should basically have your weight planted on your feet, not so much on your hands. Jeff said he's seen many folks using odd grip ideas on his bars and that those shouldn't be necessary as you should basically barely have any weight on the bars if they are set up correctly. The standard Jones style grips, either the old ESI made ones or his new ones, should be all you need there.

I used the stock stem on the Blackborow, cork grips, and leather tape for grips.
So, I took a look at my Blackborow with the Carbon H-Bars I've had on there for a couple of years now. I did not go with a shorter stem, and I suppose I could try one, but I think my issue is more height related than length related. I often feel as though the bike rides a whole lot better when I sit a hair more upright. So, my plan is to get a rise stem, maybe a Whiskey one, and try getting the bars up about 5mm from where they are now. That will be about right, I think.

I may end up pushing the saddle forward a few millimeters as well. But one thing at a time here. I'm really close to nailing the ideal position on the bike, so I don't want to get too crazy. In fact, I'm okay right where it is at, but I am thinking small tweaks are necessary and will improve my riding a touch.

Anyway, the conversation did not lead to a purchase of a Jones Bike now. I'm just too broke at the moment to consider getting one. But if I were to get one, based upon what Jeff and I spoke about, it would be the Plus LWB model with 29+ wheels and tires. Here's why......

I could use a Jones Bike Plus LWB as a commuter, gravel exploration machine, a bike for softer soils and roads, a Winter commuter when fat bikes are overkill, and as a mountain bike. I like the eccentric bottom bracket idea as a fail-safe single speed bail-out option. I like 29+ wheels and tires for the lower rolling resistance, flotation, and all-around uses that they can cover.

I'd get a steel one, of course, and as far as a fork, well, Jeff explained the benefits of the forks he offers- the Unicrown and the Truss style fork, and I'd likely go with the truss, just for the stability of that fork while mountain biking. It makes sense as a new bike for me because I can get that bike and retire two others. It is simple to maintain, and it would be a long term solution.

So, now I would just have to come up with the money. Honestly, while Jeff was trying to get me to bite on a complete, I'd get a frame and fork. I am definitely capable of setting up my own rig, and wheels aren't alien to me, so I'd likely build my own. Jeff usually goes with a 50mm wide rim on the 29+ builds, and he sometimes goes with i45 wide rims. That's about right, I think, so I'd likely go that route. Anyway, I'd build my own rig for sure. While that would bring the cost way down for me, I still need to do some saving up.

Stay tuned........

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Word On Old Routes

The T.I.M.P. route map. It's vague, and it's the best yer gonna get now.
Lately I've noticed a renewed interest in a certain route I offered for a short period of time in 2014. It was the "Trans Iowa Master's Program" route. There has been requests about it, requests for cues, information, etc. Beyond what you might gather at the T.I.M.P. site, there is nothing I am ever going to put out concerning that route ever again. Why? Well, I have a couple of reasons......

First off, and this goes for all past Trans Iowa routes, and many GTDRI routes, I don't like just handing over a route I busted my butt to ferret out for nothing. I also am not at all interested in selling my route information. If you were fortunate enough to have finished a Trans Iowa, and you managed to keep your cue sheets, you earned the right to that route in my opinion. Anyone else? Not so much. Otherwise I feel that "if I can do it, you can too" and I'll point you in the right direction to get the resource materials to get you started. You can learn all about how to do routes as well as I did. Having routes "just handed to you" doesn't seem right to me. Especially long, difficult ones.That's just how I feel about that, and I always have.

Then there is the reason I have concerning risk to me. I don't feel I should hand out a route like the T.I.M.P. and certainly not when it may come back to bite me in various forms in the future. I can think of several reasons there alone why it isn't wise to put out a route for just anyone to ride. So, that vague red line on that map of Iowa is all you are going to get from me concerning the T.I.M.P. route.

 Yeah, so I thought I would just put that out there to squelch any future requests for routes like the T.I.M.P. and old Trans Iowa routes. I will not be sharing those ever. I think that is pretty easy to understand.This is also why I haven't been too eager to pursue my idea for my "post-Trans Iowa" projects. For one thing, it is a time and energy consuming endeavor. The other thing is, I could be held responsible for "certain things", and I don't need that kind of hassle.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party v2 Report

Schwag table at the Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party
Last year N.Y.Roll and I put on what N.Y.Roll dubbed as the "Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party". I was asked to help promote and facilitate it as the speaker. Our focus was to bring a light to the gravel scene and shine that also on beginners, or what we sometimes call "gravel curious folk", who wonder about gravel riding and if it is for them.

I figured it was only going to attract a few locals. If we got 35 people, or so I thought, it would be considered a success. Now, I have to say that N.Y. Roll thought it would be much better attended than that and in the end, he was right. We had standing room only and something like 85+ people up there!

So, with such an attendance and enthusiastic response afterward, we planned on doing the Expo again the following year. This attendance issue brought N.Y. Roll and I a lot of concern, and we were constantly bouncing ideas off one another for months leading up to the next Expo. Possibilities such as having vendors, maybe some media, and of course, a bigger venue than we had for "Year One". However; in our efforts to keep the event local, we were met with several road blocks.

Things like parking, alcohol serving limitations, how to cater food, space costs, and location of venues all were huge roadblocks for our event as we had meager resources for such big plans. To be sure, Cedar Valley Cyclists and Europa Cycle & Ski, both financial supporters in our efforts, plus our first year and eventual second year host, Doughy Joey's Peetza Joynt, are to be commended for stepping up to the plate and helping us. Without them, nothing would have happened, but the resources we had, as wonderful as they were, didn't have the horsepower to launch the event to the levels we were thinking.

Attendees were treated to free Doughy Joey's Peetza courtesy of our sponsors.
In the end, the attendance issue really became our perceived biggest problem and the one that kind of has pushed us toward a new idea for this event going forward. That will be discussed later. The end result was that we came up with the idea to have two sessions and to kind of corral people into choosing one or the other to attend and we ran with that. This allowed us to use the same venue and its benefits. It ended up working out really well with comfortable amounts of room for everyone in both sessions. Had we run one session as we did our first year, the room wouldn't have held everyone that attended this year. Blame that on fire codes. It is what it is.

So, we had eleven presenters, some from first time events, and all are Iowa based events. We had, one of our sponsors, who sell the Pogie Lites I reviewed, and have a great calendar of Iowa based gravel events on their site as well. We also had a great presentation by Andrea Cohen of the Gravel Scouts. Both sessions were well received by attendees and everything went pretty smoothly. We had some nice schwag handouts with cool stickers, chain lube samples from DuMonde Tech, and slap koozies from Bike Iowa.

Doughy Joey's staff kept the pies coming and the beer flowing and accomplished all that smoothly and unobtrusively. The venue was excellent in that way. I think we maybe could have used a small P.A., but that would have brought it's own issues and we would have had a different set of problems there since the upper room we used isn't sealed off from the remainder of the public space there. All in all, it was the best it could have been. N.Y. Roll and I are grateful to the staff and owners of Doughy Joey's for allowing us the opportunity to put the event on.

Dan from the Snaggy Ridge 105 telling us how the gravel based event has affected Tipton, Iowa.
The takeaways I gathered from this Expo were many. I learned more about how gravel cycling events are benefiting small towns like Tipton, Alden, and Lynville, Iowa. I learned how initiatives to promote healthy living are affecting people in Grinnell, the Iowa City area, and Alden Iowa and this from gravel based events and organizations. I saw event directors with a lot of experience rubbing shoulders with inexperienced directors and LOTS of shared information was dispersed during the Expo. We also hosted Mark Wyatt of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, and his ideas along with those of Scott Sumpter of Bike Iowa are going to help shape what the Expo will become in the future.

Which brings me back to the point I alluded to earlier. The point about attendance. On one hand, we cannot really facilitate more people using the venue we have used. It is limited and we understand that. The event has potential to help more cyclists and event directors. It has the potential to help civic organizations and local governments to promote rural Iowa. The event has growth potential in terms of businesses involved in cycling and gravel cycling in particular. The potential is not going to be realized where we are now, so things must change to get this event where it has the potential to go.

What will that look like? Well, I cannot say for certain. We heard a lot of ideas, and there has to be more people brought into this to help guide the future of the Iowa Gravel Expo. One thing is for sure, maybe two- That is that Waterloo/Cedar Falls is probably not where the event will end up, although there is one idea floated out there which would make the event "multi-centered", so to speak. The other thing is that N.Y. Roll's and my guidance in this event is not enough, and has the distinct possibility of ending. It's something that has to be on the table for this idea to grow, and in my opinion, the idea is too good to be limited by my and N.Y. Roll's limited resources.

In the meantime, what N.Y. Roll and I have started is a success. We think, and many others do as well, that it is an awesome concept that has great potential. I know that I will be involved in the short term, at the least, in where the event goes from this point.

THANK YOU: Sponsors- Europa Cycle & Ski, Cedar Valley Cyclists, Dave Roll, Riding Gravel, Bike Iowa, Doughy Joey's Peetza Joynt, Andrea Cohen/Gravel Scouts, Scott Sumpter/Pogie Lites, The Event Directors, DuMonde Tech, Mark Wyatt/Iowa Bicycle Coalition, and most importantly- all the attendees who came to learn more about Iowa based gravel events!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Touring Series: A Game of Hacky-Sack

A Guitar Ted Productions series
 Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale, mostly as it was posted on the blog in 2009. There are some new edits and additions. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. Expect about three more weeks worth. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more. 

"The Race Against Death Tour" is at a campground near Hill City, South Dakota....

With our campground set up, and plenty of day left, we set about doing some much needed laundry, taking showers, and then just kicking back. A bit of discussion was had about what to do at this point. We were not going anywhere down the road, and we didn't have enough money to stay at the campground the rest of the week. It wasn't that expensive, but it cost $20.00 a day, and that would have us tapped out in no time. We'd spent unexpectedly the evening before in Rapid City, what with the Mexican meal and the ice cream afterward.  Touring budgets for each of us was about ten dollars a day. Of course, some days when we couldn't buy anything we didn't spend that much, but by the time we had reached Rafter J Bar Ranch, money was tight.

We talked about what to do as we were sure we'd have another day, at least, of hanging out. But with our money situation, options were few. Finally we decided to see about getting picked up. Ryan thought his Dad might be able to swing it, so he called him. Arrangements were made for us to be picked up in Hill City on Wednesday. Well, that left us the rest of Monday, and all of Tuesday, to hang out.

Our camping receipt from our first day at Rafter J Bar Ranch
This was going to be pretty different. After eight days of working our tails off, we were going to be basically doing next to nothing physically, or so it would seem. We all got into a game of hacky-sack, and let the hours roll by for the remainder of the day. Laughing, joking around, and reminiscing about the past days was fun. Still, there was an air of sadness lingering as well. We knew it was over, and we really weren't quite ready for it to be.

Ryan went into another "Ren and Stimpy" bit right as two lovely young ladies were walking past our site. One of the lasses called out, "Is your friend all right?" Seeing that she was serious, Troy and I busted out laughing, and Ryan's face was about as red as it gets. That was how it was though for the most part. Ryan was the clown of the trip, and really was a great foil for Troy's aggressive and serious nature on the bike.

With a whole day at our disposal for Tuesday, we did a bit of research and found out we were only a few short miles from Sylvan Lake on the Needles Highway, which started not far from the exit to the campground. We also talked about checking out Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument. Maybe all of it in a day? We weren't sure, but we thought we would explore around anyway. No sense in sitting around all day long in a campground when you are so close to so many attractions, or so we were thinking.

At any rate, this day was over, and it was cooling off in a hurry with the Sun's setting. We made for the tent and had a wonderful nights sleep.

Now the "Race Against Death Tour" felt more like "Summer Vacation" and it was pretty fun, actually. Oddly enough, we shifted gears from nose-to-the-grindstone, hard cycling, hard living touring guys to slumming Summer bums with alarming ease. I recall feeling a million miles away from the World, but also feeling the World's tapping on my shoulder. It was sort of easy to ignore on that Monday afternoon, since Wednesday was, well.......we weren't going there just yet. We were going to savor every last drop of this. No worries, no responsibilities, no knowledge of the World's troubles and issues.

It's interesting to think about it now, so many years and a Universe away from those times. Social media would make what we had experienced then impossible now. You just couldn't do this as easily as we did in 1995. I suppose there are things one can do..... Maybe Tour Divide, but even that has social media posts and well....... No. Doing what we did is simply not possible anymore. I'm so glad I did do that tour back then.

Next week: A Day At Sylvan Lake

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Minus Ten Review- 2009-6

Ten years ago this week on this blog I was yakking about a new tool that I was using to take images with. It was a big investment into what I was doing, for me anyway, and it kind of put me in a bad place financially at the time. Buying things like expensive digital cameras in February while on a bike mechanic's budget isn't very easy to do. But I did it........

But, since I was responsible for content on "Tweny Nine Inches" at this point, I felt it was my duty to up my camera game significantly. Up until this point I had been using a Fuji point and shoot which was "okay", but I felt compelled to make the leap into "serious" cameras even though this barely qualified as such a camera. Whatever..... It got the job done and I ended up using this camera for several years.

While the serious, "set pieces' were all taken with the new Panasonic, the Fuli point and shoot was still in play and I used it for a big portion of my photography until about four years or so ago when I dropped it at the beginning of a Renegade Gent's Race and lost the battery, of all things. I thought I broke the camera, because, somehow or other, when it hit the deck, the battery compartment ejected the battery then closed again, as if nothing had happened. When I retrieved the camera, it didn't fire up, and I figured it was completely dead. So, I didn't find out until later it was just a battery. But that's another story.......

The whole point of sharing the story of the Fuji's demise is that once I replaced that camera with an Olympus Tough TG-3, I passed on the Panasonic to my daughter, who still uses it. So, this camera, featured today, lives on, but not in my hands.

A "January Thaw" in February 2009.
The other notable thing was that it was ten years ago this week that the weather broke and we started on our march towards Spring. I was able to get out on a couple of late Winter gravel rides to get ready for my CIRREM attempt and I was using my Karate Monkey single speed to get into shape.

This amounted to the "last hurrah" for the karate Monkey for several years. By this point, the bike was six years old and had seen a lot of bad weather and at least four years of Winter commuting. The originally installed UN-53 bottom bracket was showing signs of giving up the ghost, so I was starting to think it was time to install a new bottom bracket. That was thought to be an easy job until I found out my bottom bracket was frozen into the frame, and then, became a big problem. 

Since the website was taking up so much time and since I had 29"ers to be testing and reviewing, the old Karate Monkey ended up getting moved to the back of the "pile" and wasn't repaired for several years. This was one of the motivations for me to get out from under the 29"er website since I loved riding that Karate Monkey on gravel and I wasn't able to focus on that with the website duties.

So, this ride was one of the last gravel rides I had on the KM, and I missed it dearly afterward. That will be a big part in the future stories in the coming years.......

Friday, February 08, 2019

Friday News And Views

Do you know what it means?
Fun Fact For The Day:

Since this popped into my inbox a few days ago, and the big SRAM component news dropped yesterday, I thought it might be fun to share a tidbit about SRAM.

First of all, having worked in bicycle shops for 20 years, I've heard all manner of mispronunciations of this brand's name. The most common of those being "shram". Note: There is no "sh" in SRAM. But my favorite one of all time is "S-Ram". Yep! I have no idea where that came from, but I do recall hearing it from more than one person. I suppose the fact that it is actually an amalgamation of the letters from the founder's names makes the moniker an odd one for us to figure out.

"SRAM" comes from the names of the founders, Scott, Ray, and Sam, with the "Ray" being the middle name of Stan Day, who just stepped down as SRAM's head honch after 31 years. So, now you know.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday about the new stuff SRAM is showing and that was regarding the electronic Reverb dropper post. They are asking $800.00 for it. Really. ya know, I get that top drawer technology has high prices, but $800.00? Nope. Not happening. 

Another Bike Sees The Light Of Day:

Winter was melted last weekend, the trails are all icy, and so are the gravel roads. This is a tough time of year around the Cedar Valley. I usually spend a bunch of time resurrecting certain bikes that haven't gotten a lot of love in the previous riding season. Bikes like the On One Inbred single speed special. The "Limited" model, I believe. Limited to being a single speed. There are zero provisions for gears on this rig.

That's fine with me, of course, and I really do like this as a mountain bike. It's old school, second generation 29"er geometry suits me fine and works perfectly around here in our tight, twisty single track. It doesn't have a very slack head tube, and the bottom bracket isn't dumped very low on it. The chain stays are longer than what is fashionable these days too. But in my opinion, things have swung too far that way. Most present day mountain bikes are not very Mid-West friendly anymore.

So, the only thing I'd change here is the wheels. They are wheels like I described in a post on rims here a while back. Early-ish 29"er wheels with narrow rims. It's funny, because these are Sun-Ringle' wheels which were supposedly "All Mountain" wheels and the rims maybe are 28mm outer width. In other words, these are gravel bike wheels now! Oh yeah......all mountain. Anyone remember when that was a niche in trail bikes?

Same place, a year ago, we held the first Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party
Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party

Tomorrow starting at 1:30pm at Doughy Joey's in Cedar Falls, Iowa, I will be hosting the second Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party. along with N.Y. Roll.

Last year we were focused on rank beginner gravel riders. This year we are focusing on Iowa based gravel events. We have compiled a list of events and we have about 5-6 folks from various Iowa gravel events scheduled to speak at this expo. We hope that afterward folks will be enlightened as to where to go to enjoy gravel rides during the rest of 2019.

Last year we had one session which ended up being standing room only. So we developed a way to split the crowd into two sessions and each can be accessed only by obtaining a guest ticket (free, no purchase required) via Tikly, an online ticketing site. The evening session can be accessed here. The afternoon session access is here. You have to choose one or the other so we can get as many people as possible.

There will be free pizza provided until it runs out during each session. Attendees will be able to purchase beer and soft drinks at a bar located in the back of the upper room we will be holding forth at. There are still some spots left so don't delay and join us tomorrow at Doughy Joey's.

That's it for this week. have a fantastic weekend and get out for a ride!

Thursday, February 07, 2019

A Big Day For SRAM

SRAM Eagle AXS e-Tap. Yes, that's an "oil slick" finish on the chain and cassette. Image courtesy of SRAM
There was a big media blitz on SRAM introductions on both the road and mtb sides yesterday. The long looked for e-tap version of SRAM's Eagle technology was introduced along with a wireless Rock Shox Reverb dropper post. The road side also was revamped as a 12 speed group with Red e-Tap AXS announced.

So, on the mtb side, it basically was about getting in the game where Shimano has had the playground to itself with regard to electronic shifting. Of course, everyone was making a big deal out of the lack of cables on the bike now and how that was going to make things "so much quieter". Hmm...... I think that claim is a bit over-hyped, SRAM. There may be a modicum of "less noise", but really now..... The lack of having to route cables? Now that is definitely a bigger deal than any noise reduction. You may say, yeah, but cables inside frames make rattles. Well, you'll probably still have a rear brake cable running through there, and that is an issue with the frame manufacturing, nothing to do with a "better drive train".

But this is a cool, if not super expensive, new entry. SRAM also did the aesthetics up with an addition of the "oil slick" look to the entire chain and cassette, (optional- if you don't like it, there is an alternative) which was only previously seen on the connector links for Eagle chains.

The Eagle e-Tap AXS rear derailleur will likely be seen on many high end gravel rigs. Image courtesy of SRAM
The other cool thing is that now the Eagle AXS is also compatible with the road AXS stuff. At least as far as a drop bar lever and rear derailleur are concerned. So, a set up with a drop bar and a really wide range rear cassette is now possible. SRAM also pointed out that the parts are currently only available as group sets, so your "pick and choose" options are not quite there yet.

I thought it was sort of interesting how the new Eagle rear derailleur will "give" a bit inwards if it is hit by a rock, or something. That's cool, but the rear hangars are where your leverage is focused on, and shearing off of derailleurs generally happens in a completely different plane than inward, toward the wheel. I'm not buying this claim either.

Finally, the road stuff- I see SRAM is pushing the "one jump shifts" thing to make us think they have closer ratio cassettes than Shimano. Well, there are some tricksy-tricks going on with their cyphering. First, they do have many one cog jumps, but these come with big jumps on the last few cogs of there cassettes- 3 and sometimes four teeth. Then they ding Shimano on one cassette for having no single cog jumps. However, that particular cassette they pick on has 2 cog jumps the entire way through the cassette. SRAM? Not so much. So, you have to be careful how you interpret the marketing.

But this is a cool development on several levels. Time will tell how it works in the field and how riders adapt it to their rigs.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Equipment Upgrades

I won't be dropping this mic!
The other day Mrs. Guitar Ted looked my way with a disgusted look on her face.

"What's wrong Hon?", I asked, assuming incorrectly that I probably had forgotten to brush my teeth or something.

"That headset of yours is awful. We're going to replace it", she declared, and once she declares something, look out! It's all over as far as any discussion.

So the other day she picked out some gear and showed it to me. I concurred that it all looked like a good set up and then she pushed the "go" button and the next thing ya know we have a new microphone, head set, and a boom with a pop screen. Yep. All professional looking and stuff. You might be wondering what in the world this all has to do with "Guitar Ted Productions". Well........

I do the odd podcast bit with "Riding Gravel" from time to time, so that played into this. I also have another idea up my sleeve as well. It has to do with story telling, and this new equipment might help me with that, or not. I don't know just yet. I have some playing around to do with this stuff to get comfortable with it and I also have to do a bit of research then.......

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

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Review Of Parts Past: WTB Nano 40 Tires

Today we are going to take a look at something you don't see much of anymore. Parts and pieces that graced our rides in days past that were noted for some special characteristic, either good or bad, will be featured in this recurring theme from time to time here. I call it "Review Of Parts Past", but that will get shortened to "ROPP", so there! Today's featured part is the WTB

My old WTB Nano 40 TCS tire
 WTB Nano 40 TCS Tires:

Back in 2014 there wasn't much available for "gravel specific" tires. there was Bruce Gordon's Rock & Road tire and.......the Clement (now Donnelly) MSO was announced, but not quite available yet. (Edit- The MSO was out Spring 2012. The tubeless version was announced, butb not out yet. Thanks to "Dan" a reader who pointed this out.)  It is amazing to me that five short years ago we were looking at less than a handful of "gravel cycling tires", and you know what? I was glad we had any at all.

But it all must have been bubbling up in engineer's minds and marketing rooms behind closed doors at certain cycling companies. If there is one thing I've learned throughout this cycling industry "career" I've had it is that "nothing gets made unless the numbers are there." What that means is that any products you see, typically, are only being made because the projected sales figures seem real enough that manufacturing will get their money back out of making a certain new product and more.

Obviously there are exceptions. The original 1999 Nanoraptor 29"er X 2.1" tire was a HUGE risk. But typically things aren't that murky when a product gets launched. So, I figure that when WTB took the chance on making a gravel tire, they knew a thing or three about what was coming down the pipeline. Anyway........

The tire they introduced, a narrower take on the aforementioned Nanoraptor, was dubbed the Nano 40. It was not tubeless. However; the following year it came out as such and was heralded as the first tubeless gravel specific tire that you could get. I received an advanced set ahead of the "official" release of the tire. In fact, WTB, who had sent over a few sets of the Nano 40 folder as prizing for T.I.v10, doubled down and sent cases of new, unreleased WTB Nano 40 TCS tires as prizing for every finisher of the upcoming T.I.v11. That's another story for another time........

The Nano TCS tires on my old T-6 Standard Rando in '16
The Nano 40 TCS was the tire that made gravel riding a true adventure in that it had dirt prowess as well as a nice roll on harder, smoother surfaces. The tubeless component was really what turned the tire into a pretty decent contender. In its folding bead, tubed version, it wasn't all that impressive. There were better choices out there already. But the Nano 40 TCS holds up over time rather well.

Besides the excellent, well sorted TCS tubeless system, the Nano 40 also benefited from an interlocking center tread block pattern which formed a pseudo-center line which promotes fast roll. This saved the Nano from being perceived as an overly aggressive tread for most gravel roads.

The other thing the Nano has going for it is that it has a voluminous casing without being really wide. Tall-ish and a true 40mm's wide, the Nano gives the rider using it a cushioned, smoother ride over the crushed rock and it still fits most circa 2014 bikes used for gravel. Subsequent tires grew, stretched, or were made wide from the onset so that they were tough to mount into many bikes until recently.

The Nano 40 also seems to wear very well. During the 2016 Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, I looked over to see that Scott Sumpter had a set of very worn looking Nano 40's he had put thousands of miles on in two seasons of use. So, they wear well, ride well, and have an excellent tubeless system behind them.

My experiences on the Nano 40 have all been long enough ago now that I felt compelled to revisit the tires. Not that these are not available anymore, but I did set up my original, 2015 set. In fact, you can get a swanky looking skinwall set now days, and I would rather be running that, if only for the good looking part. Otherwise, these tires I have look well enough and the set up just like they used to- easily and hold air just fine. Stay tuned for an update later this Spring about what I think about how the Nano 40 has held up over time.