Friday, February 26, 2021

Friday News And Views

The TIME Ciclo pedal was to be TIME's entry into the gravel segment.
SRAM Purchases TIME Pedal Business:

Toward the end of 2019 I was contacted by a marketing agency representing TIME and was asked if I wanted to try out a new pedal that they were going to market to gravel riders. It was an embargoed deal and I couldn't talk about it for awhile, but eventually in October of 2019 they announced it. In November I posted my first edition of a three part review on these pedals. The pedals were preproduction units. They were the same as production only these were built in house by TIME, not in their vendor's factory, as the production units were to be built. 

This resulted in my having gotten time in on the pedals before they became available in early 2020. However; TIME was in financial trouble at that point and production was spotty, at best. Some people got pedals, but many did not. To further complicate matters, a small cosmetic flaw was discovered which TIME claimed they wanted to rectify, which was the reason I was given that the pedals ceased to be available for a while. I was told to cease and desist from posting about the pedals. I'm guessing now that was an 'official company directive' to cover them until their financial/ownership issues had been rectified. Of course, then COVID-19 hit , big demand hit, and all that nonsense. So, it's taken until now to finally get things sorted. TIME's frame/fork business was purchased by another company, but curiously, the pedal business was still on the market. Well, last Monday a bombshell announcement revealed that SRAM had purchased that part of TIME. 

Comments: This is big. Shimano has had pedals since the dawn of time, (HA! Sorry!), and SRAM has not really had pedals to speak of. Sure, they did some flat pedals for a while, some Quark power meter meter pedals, and if memory serves, there were some SPD-like SRAM branded pedals for a bit, but for the most part, no.... SRAM now has TIME pedals and they are highly regarded by road cyclists and mountain bikers. Obviously, the gravel segment is covered as well with the Ciclo, which you'd have to believe is a pedal SRAM will want to ramp up production on sooner than later. 

 In a "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" article about the SRAM/TIME story, it is said that SRAM will market the pedals as "Time Sport". This should put Time Sport pedals underneath a lot more riders in the future. While the story claims SRAM won't rebrand these pedals, I find it hard to believe that at some point they won't fold Time Sport into a SRAM branding. Especially when new models start to appear, and as the linked "BRAIN" article intimates, SRAM has a lot of in-house power meter technology, so a power meter pedal is probably coming soon. It would then make sense to have it communicate with SRAM's AXS technology, and be called "SRAM AXS Pedals", as a for instance. We'll see......

Media Conglomerate Forms- Aims To Be Your 'Outside' Ecosystem:

Also- while we're thinking about "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News", it was also reported on Monday that the industry specific media's parent company is now known as "Outside" since the company formerly known as "Pocket Outdoor Media" acquired "Outdoor" and several other entities within the active media realm. The formation of this conglomerate means that one corporation now controls a huge portion of your outdoor focused media and outdoor activities focused companies. 

In addition to "BRAIN" and "Outdoor Magazine" the new Outdoor company also owns "Peloton", "Velo News", and several other back packing, snow sports, and yoga based titles. Interestingly, "Outdoor" also now owns "AthleteReg", owner of "", who also have partnered with USAC. You probably know "" if you've attended gravel events. 

The CEO of 'Outdoor', Robin Thurston, had his vision for the media empire laid out in the press release sent out and published by all of 'Outdoor's' media outlets which said that, "Thurston's vision is to build what he calls the Amazon Prime of the active lifestyle: a connected, holistic ecosystem of resources — including content, experiences, utilities, community, commerce, education, and services — that can be customized for each active lifestyle enthusiast."

Comments: So, be aware that you may be playing with "The Man" as you go about reading about and doing outside activities. Come to think of it, can we even say 'outside' anymore without violating some trademark? Only half kidding there.......

Maybe you don't care, but I find it rather interesting that a very vocal segment of 'outside' loving gravel enthusiasts are carping on about the 'corporatization of gravel' and how events are 'too corporate' but maybe are not paying attention to what's happening 'in the room' here. Obviously anything 'outside' related is hot now. It only makes sense then that corporate entities are taking note and looking to become a player in the economics of 'outside' activities.  I say just be aware who you are handing over your dinero to. 

Iowa Gravel Series Announced; 

Unbelievably there has never been an Iowa based gravel events series. In fact, there was a dearth of Iowa based gravel events in any form until maybe three years ago. Now that all looks to be changing. 

With several new events on its calendar, the Iowa Gravel Series looks to become the first series of events under one banner in Iowa. The site doesn't give any indications that this is anything other than several events under one banner. For instance, there doesn't seem to be any carry-over for 'points' or any kind of overall series competition, but the series is noteworthy for being aimed at all riders of any skill level. The events are to be 100 milers, and are spread across the state from Northeast Iowa to Southwest Iowa. (NOTE: I did communicate with the series director eventually on Facebook and he said he is working these details out)

There are currently five events listed with four of them being brand new. They are "The Silver City Century, May 8th, the "Waukon One Hundred, June 19th, "Albia" on July 17th, and "Preparation Pisgah" on August 14th. An established event, the Glenwood Gravel event, also has joined up and will happen on September 18th.

The events are going to have GPX files for riders to navigate by and it is claimed that the routes will be "clearly marked" as well. NOTE: I saw nothing about any COVID-19 protocols, so please be aware of that situation and do your research if you are interested in attending these events. NOTE: I have no affiliation with these events. I retired from event productions at the end of 2020. Any questions should not be asked of me concerning these events. I am just passing on the info.  

Comments: Okay, it's about time someone stepped up to the plate and did a series. Also, NEW EVENTS! How cool is that? This should start to give Iowa a reputation for great gravel routes and opportunities. I LOVE that one of their events is out of Waukon, an area I am quite familiar with having run Trans Iowa through there. If you attend that one, get yer climbing gears on! 

I heard through an acquaintance  that more current Iowa events were asked to join the series but declined due to their opinion that the series did not enhance their events. That said, I wouldn't be surprised to see more events added in the future. I do not know the series director, but it is apparent that he is aggressively moving forward with plans to make this a thing in Iowa.

A little disappointed in that there is no nod to our pandemic which is ongoing. While things 'look better', we ain't outta the woods yet, and by seemingly ignoring this, I think it is a bad thing for the series. Hopefully that gets rectified, but otherwise I am glad to see this being rolled out. I hope that the events live up to the high standards that previous Iowa gravel events have pioneered.  

Salsa Cycles Timberjack XT Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
Salsa Cycles Debuts '21 Model Year Timberjacks:

Salsa Cycles on Thursday introduced their new range of Timberjack mountain bikes. This is a new design from the ground up, longer wheel base, slacker head angle, a bit lower in the bottom bracket. So, right in the hardtail-du-jour soup for mountain bikes. 

Mountain bikes used to be a thing that helped you traverse all-terrain. They used to be a bike type that could be best said to have been an all-around bike for anything single track anywhere. But specialty segments broke off that- down hill, enduro, and XC racing to name but a few. The hard tail bike is, kind of, the remnant of that original exploration/touring type of mountain bike that kicked off the genre in the late 70's/early 80's. 

But even these hard tails, as exemplified by the current Timberjack, have evolved to become mostly groomed trail, down hill specialists. That's what seems to sell, so that is what people get. In many ways, bike packing bikes like the Tumbleweed Prospector or a Jones Bikes model (pick any one of them) is more akin to the original spirit of mountain biking than the Timberjack is, and they handle all-terrains reasonably well. Unlike a bike like the Timberjack, and its ilk, which are not all that great where I live, as a for instance. 

A Breezer Lightning, circa 2013.
I tested a Breezer once back in around 2013, I think it was, and that bike was a single track ripper! Sure, it wouldn't do what a Timberjack is capable of on a bermed-out, downhill trail, but it could kill a Timberjack in the Mid-West on single track. Plus, it was an easy bike to climb on, and didn't require loads of steering corrections while doing so. That's a bike type that is sorely missing, in my view, from today's offerings. 

But Salsa Cycles biggest customer is REI co-op, and they buy the lion's share of Fargos, Timberjacks, and other more lower to mid-priced Salsa bikes in the range. They want a bike that has appeal which consumers will part with their dollars for and this is the type of riding more people are attracted to now- the more gravity oriented, groomed trails type riding, and so who is wrong? Not Salsa, not REI. They are just giving the market what it wants to part with their dollars, so I get it. 

The market is in love with this idea, the marketers are all about fulfilling and stoking that idea, and maybe some day things will swing back the other way and we'll think bikes like the Timberjack were really goofy, just as we do when we look at the "NORBA hard tails" from the 90's. (The other extreme, in my mind) Or not....... Who knows? 

I have heard through the grapevine that numbers on new 2021 Salsa bikes available are really limited. It was rumored online that REI received most of the Fargo allotment and Larges and Mediums are sold out already. In February! So, I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear that a Timebrjack is as rare as a hen's tooth and that many people will be scrambling to find one. To be fair, most any 2021 model year bike will be really hard to find. 

It's going to be another one of those years............

That's a wrap for this week. Looking forward to better weather soon, but get out there if you can.


NY Roll said...

What is the Iowa Spring Classic? You are mistakes there is a second Iowa Gravel Series. Europa use to sponsor the series via Twisted Spokes. Granted the Iowa Spring Classic is USAC and has been going on for over a decade.

Kenny Cyphers said...

I hear what you’re saying about the progression of mountain bikes. It’s what lead me to a dirt-road bike instead of a mountain bike in the my early riding years.

I recently bought a Kona Unit and it fits exactly what you’re describing about the older mtb’s. Though it looks modern in geo, it is fully rigid and traverses most terrain really well while stile climbing and cruising dirt roads comfortably.

Guitar Ted said...

@N.Y. Roll - The Iowa Spring Classic was really three separate races. They were just run by the same promoter. There was no connection other than the name and the promoter. No points accumulated, nothing to make a person want to do all three. *could* say it was a "series", but it was more like three separate gravel criteriums to my mind. Up for debate for sure.

The Iowa Gravel Series is going to be a 'real' series of races with connections by points and more, according to the promoter. Each event will be somewhat unique too, not a short circuit.

If you 'really' want to get technical, CIRREM used to be part of the AGRS which was a 'real' series of gravel events. Only thing was that most of the series was based in Minnesota.

Tyler Loewens said...

I remember when Salsa had a RIPPING Spearfish. MAN I wanted one of those so bad - especially the blue aluminum one with XX1. Salsa just doesn't seem to care about the small travel XC-type stuff anymore. To your point, they are likely just following market demand - still seems like a bummer.

CrossTrail said...

With SRAM acquiring the rights to Time ATAC pedals, I may have to stock up on current inventory before they convert everything to 1X. ; )

Scott said...

Hi GT. I am not sure you are giving modern mtb geometry a fair shake. I greatly respect your opinion and acknowledge your higher level of cycling expertise but I would like to offer a friendly opposing argument. I think your mtb take here is a bit similar to someone who would say "...gravel bike? I don't need a gravel bike. My CX bike works just fine on gravel roads."

Yes. A CX bike works. But, as you know, some geometry tweaks found on modern gravel bikes can make a big difference on the gravel riding experience compared to a bike with classic CX geometry.

I ride mid-west singletrack (I'm fairly confident that I know what you are referring to when you use the term) and I would have to disagree with this assertion:

" could kill a Timberjack in the Mid-West on single track."

If both bikes had an XC fork and XC tires the Timberjack would be faster and more fun. Disclaimer: some "old school" riders may need some time to adept to "new school" geometry and riding technique.

Engineers have figured out how to incorporate the benefits of a slacker head angle without the dreaded front wheel flop. Regarding the statement: "... it was an easy bike to climb on, and didn't require loads of steering corrections while doing so." This is not a concern at all with the Timberjack (unless you intentionally over fork it.)

Bikes like the Timberjack are very versatile and are much better for newbies than an XC scalpel with razor sharp handling. They are stable and confidence inspiring. I believe labeling the bike as a downhill specialist is a mischaracterization. It's much more of an allrounder than something like the Chromag Rootdown.

My big critique with the Salsa offering is the pairing of low level forks with mid level drivetrain. Low level forks are often bouncy boat anchors. If you are trying to hit a certain price point such as the $2,099 model, I would much rather see an intermediate level fork + Deore than an entry level fork + XT. What are your thoughts on this trade-off?

In short, it does come down to riding style but you don't have to be an enduro bro with downhill trails to enjoy the Timberjack. I have a similar bike, the Santa Cruz Chameleon. These modern hardtails are sooooooooo much better than the bikes we road during your twentynineinches days. I really think you would enjoy them if you gave one a chance.

Thanks! Keep the the great content and opinions coming. FN&V is my favorite. Always fun to read and interact a little bit here.

Guitar Ted said...

@Scott - Thanks for your comments. As a rider that has used modern geometry bikes (Diamondback, Santa Cruz, Salsa) and 'semi-modern' (Singular Buzzard), I hold to my assertions that these modern, long, slack, low geo bikes are not ideal here at all. That's my take based upon riding these sorts of bikes versus older geometry bikes which were much sharper single track bikes.

I understand front end geometry and how different things have been done to try to mitigate the 'dreaded wheel flop", as you put it, but I've ridden stock bikes that don't seem to fit your version of "mitigated" because I am working harder to keep the front end where I need it to be than I think I should be, and certainly far more than I used to have to.

In fact, your quote, "Yes. A CX bike works. But, as you know, some geometry tweaks found on modern gravel bikes can make a big difference on the gravel riding experience compared to a bike with classic CX geometry. " can be applied here in that direction as well. "Yes, a modern geo hardtail works, but a bike designed for Mid-West single track, (or for most anywhere else than out West), can make a big difference....."

See what I mean?

Also >>> "In short, it does come down to riding style but you don't have to be an enduro bro with downhill trails to enjoy the Timberjack"

Right. You do you. Timberjacks aren't "bad bikes" but they are not the sharpest tool for Mid-west single track, and elsewhere, in my opinion. My mind hasn't been changed on that point.

MG said...

@Scott – I agree with you about the curious fork spec on the new Timberjack models. Never once have I longed to ride a RockShox 35 in any iteration. I’d much rather ride a lower level drivetrain than have to ride an entry level fork. Deal breaker for me...

Guitar Ted said...

@Sc0tt @MG - That fork may be a result of what Salsa could actually get vs what they wanted. This demand/supply cycle is making for a lot of odd situations this year in spec and in the shop. I know just getting repair parts is a hit and miss deal.

I also noted the price increases. Sign-o-the-times.

NY Roll said...

Mark, you are mistaken. It was 4 to 5, lately it has been 3 races. Points were accumulated, I know at least in 2014, ask me how I know. I was the Cat 5 chapion for 2014, because I went to all the events. So what if it was/is the same promotor. Is the World Series less important now as the MLB is the sole promoter? I am not against a series, I want factual information out there. Puffery is one, but misinformation is another. The market will decide if this is recieved well or not.

Guitar Ted said...

@N.Y. Roll- Not 4-5 events, the most was 4 races and it hasn't been that for several years now. (I can screen shot a calendar entry for you if you'd like)