Thursday, June 24, 2021

Wolf Tooth Supple Lite Handle Bar Tape: Impressions

As wrapped on my PRO Discover Big Flare Handle Bars.
 Wolf Tooth Supple Lite Handle Bar Tape:\

NOTE: This handle bar tape was sent to RidingGravel.com for test and review at no charge. I am not being paid nor bribed for this post.

 RidingGravel.com got in some of this new Wolf Tooth Supple Lite bar tape and I just put it on the Noble GX5's PRO Discover Big Flare handle bars. I go through a lot of handle bar tape and so I get my mitts on many different types and brands of the stuff. The Noble GX5 was due for something new and so this was a timely delivery. I will be doing a "Quick Review" for RidingGravel.com later, but right now I wanted to pass along my impressions of this tape, because I am pretty impressed with what I have experienced so far. My thoughts may change if I see issues down the road, so make note that this is not a 'final word' on this product. It is a 'first impression', so it should be read that way. 

Now- a bit of a back story- Previous to using this tape, I tried a competitor's thick - nearly 5mm thick- handle bar tape and found that - after trying to wrap one side for 30 minutes- that it was just not a well designed product. Part of the issue was the exit path for the hydraulic hose on the Shimano GRX levers and part of the issue was also the PRO Discover bar's tight bend from the tops to the ramps of the design. The thick tape tried before wasn't able to conform or hold its position in this transition area of the handle bar, so it ended up that I had to give over and try the tape on another bike. In the meantime I took some cheap, OEM fake cork tape, and had the entire handle bar wrapped in under ten minutes.

Note the tighter wraps near the hoods. This makes the tape nearly 5mm thick there.
Keep that failure in mind as I tell this story, because the Wolf Tooth tape is 2.5mm thick, but 40mm wide. It tapers out to the edges from the center, so it depends on how you wrap the tape as to what the final thickness is. Overlapping closer makes the tape thicker, while spreading it out as you wrap makes it thinner. I purposely wrapped the Supple Lite tape in big, overlapping layers at the brake/shift lever where that tight bend is on the PRO Discover bar and it laid down and took to this difficult to wrap area quite nicely. Very impressive!

Now the thicker portion is right behind the lever's hood, which is right where you want some 'cush' in the rougher stuff. The drop section is thinner, where I spread out the overlapping so that I have a more solid grip there as that is where I will be during descents and whenever I want a secure grip for maneuvering. 

The Supple Lite tape is made of an EVA foam and is crazy tacky/grippy. I'll see how that holds up in a dusty, dirty, sweaty environment later, but right now that seems like a good thing. The give of the tape is pretty firm, but yet palpable, so I am hoping that it does give me some relief on the chunky crushed rock. 

Oh, and by the way, it has nice finishing tape and is quite long enough to wrap a wider bar. This PRO one is approximately equivalent to a 46cm bar. Now consider that the previously mentioned, really thick bar tape that didn't work out costs nearly $60.00 and the Wolf Tooth tape is $29.95. That's pretty eye-opening right there. I'm hoping to find out that this tape holds up well, because if it does, it would mark one of the better values in bicycle products out there right now. Time will tell all......

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2: Getting Acquainted With The Machine

Practicing on my own spokes....
 In my effort to get these wheels built I have decided to take all of you readers along for the ride. So, today's post will be about the next step in my Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2. The next step was to get the spokes gathered together. 

I did a bit of a big overview concerning how to arrive at the proper data to get spoke lengths in my last update. So, I will be assuming that you either understand that, or have gotten this far. Now to choose spokes....

I had an excellent question regarding this in the comments section and it will serve to provide a general discussion here of spoke brands, types, and the nipples to go with them. Most people kind of overthink this part, in my opinion. Basically, all the minutiae that some folks sweat over when choosing wheel components is completely forgotten about and not discernible in terms of ride feel after a few weeks of riding. So- why sweat the choices when there are proven winning combinations? My take on component choices follows this philosophy. 

So, I'll list a few 'this-or-that' topics and comment appropriately....

  • Butted/Bladed or Straight Gauge: I don't sweat the weight thing here as the difference in butted versus straight gauge is not all that much. You are much better off being concerned about rim and hub weights as you can realize a lot more gains from those parts than you will from 28-32 spokes. That said.... Use what makes sense for the build. Straight gauge spokes tend to be tougher, they handle more abuse in a better way- so use those in situations where you want that quality. Butted spokes can be more flexible, and they often are the 'strongest' spokes in terms of tensile strength. So, use those where those qualities make more sense. But don't go solely on weight.  
  • Alloy vs Brass Spoke Nipples: You can almost never go wrong using brass nipples. Alloy nipples can be used successfully, and- of course- come in various anodized colors while brass nipples do not. Alloy is lighter, brass is tougher. Brass resists corrosion better than alloy does. Alloy requires that the builder make sure that the spoke lengths are exactly the right length to avoid nipple failures. Brass is more forgiving in that way. Again- use what makes sense for the job. If you go alloy- make sure you, or your wheel builder, knows the correct methods to attain the best outcome. 
  • Brand: Stick with the following- DT Swiss, Sapim, or Wheelsmith. That's my opinion. Anything else is taking a risk, again- my opinion - that is not necessary. Period. 

Okay, one more interesting tidbit- The Spank rims require 'spoke washers', which are what they sound like- Little washers that go under the nipple head and against the inner rim well. These do-dads spread force across a wider area of the rim instead of localizing it at the spoke hole edges. Not all rim manufacturers require these, but some do. (Some builds should have them as well.) Also, Spank strongly recommends using butted spokes to get the best out of their claimed 'vertically compliant rims'. So, I am not going 100% butted, but there will be some butted spokes in this build. Spank also requires the builder use 3 cross pattern in the lacing. That's fine as that is what I would do anyway. So, these wheels will be a bit odd compared to a standard set of wheels. 

I have quite a stash of spokes from the years of wheel building. So, I often go through those to see what I have that I can 'use up' in my next wheel build. They are all Wheelsmith spokes, for the most part, with a few DT Swiss spokes thrown in for good measure. I had to source about half the spokes since I did not have the correct 295mm length. Fortunately we have a Wheel Fanatyk/Wheelsmith/Morizumi spoke cutter at Andy's Bike Shop. Actually, we just got it a couple of months ago. There are 'blank spokes'- spokes which are overly long and not threaded- which can be cut to a precise length and have threads rolled into them by the spoke machine. It is a fun, easy to do process and I cut 28 spokes in minutes for the job before I started work Tuesday. 

The next thing I have to do is to source nipples, and after that- it's wheel building time!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

That's A Lot Of Gravel

 Gravel. It's what I ride on these days, as you all that come here know. I was reminded yesterday of one of the big reasons why that is. We have a lot of the stuff here! 

I did this thing called "The Quest" last year where I challenged myself to complete a ride on every Black Hawk County gravel road that I hadn't ridden before. That was a LOT of roads, but any thoughts about riding every gravel road in Iowa are completely crazy. It would take a lifetime of riding gravel roads to manage that challenge and conquer it.

I've seen estimates on how many miles of gravel and dirt roads Iowa has, and they range around the upper 60,000 to 70,000 miles. Let's say you have a good 60 years of riding, allowing for childhood development and old age on the other end. You'd have to ride over 1,100 miles of new gravel miles every year for 60 straight years to accomplish the feat.  I highlighted that 'new gravel miles' bit because that is important to understand. You see, it is not as easy as just riding 1,100 miles of new gravel every year.

No- because you have LOTS of dead ends! Those all have to be out and back, which double the miles in those sections. Just think about how many stubs of dirt and gravel there are running up into dead ends along I-80, I-35, I-29, I-380, and many four lane limited access U.S. Highways like Highway 30, 20, and others. 

Plus all the dead ends along rivers, cities, and roads that just end for no apparent reason. All would have to be done as out-and-backs which would really complicate matters. That takes not just more miles, but more time. I'm not here to say it would be impossible, but one would have to have a logistical talent, organization that was impeccable, and dedication that was off the charts. I mean, think about the Winter months, inclement weather, and the dog days of Summer, all which you'd have to consider as road blocks to accomplishing the goal. 

Travel time, health over 60 years, and just plain luck would all have to come together to make that ride even close to possible. Yeah......I have a small idea of this. That challenge I did last year just in Black Hawk County nearly consumed me. I cannot imagine doing that for decades. But.......maybe someone will. 

I probably won't be around to see it if it ever does happen, but whomever succeeds in doing that someday will have ridden a heck of a lot of gravel and dirt roads!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2: Calculating

Scribblins- Gotta measure twice....
 Over the weekend I had a rather unusual opportunity. I was out sitting on the porch Saturday morning, drinking my coffee, watching a pair of House Wrens raise their family in a bird house my son made in middle school, when I saw my neighbor with a load of stuff heading for a trailer he had attached to his work van. I had been contemplating where to go for my ride. It was beautiful, and the day promised to be perfect for cycling. But he looked at me and meekly suggested I could be helping him, so I immediately got dressed for working and proceeded to help move him out. 

He had a ton of stuff accumulated over a span of 25+ years of living there. He had fallen on his luck, his family had pretty much forsaken him, and well..... I decided I needed to help him more than I needed to ride. Anyway....that was Saturday. 

Sunday rained. We needed it, but with Father's Day happening as well, I just had zero opportunities to ride a bike. Either it was raining, or I was with family doing things, and I had little time between either to squeeze in any activities. Besides, I had worked my tail off the day before going up stairs and down in two different houses, carrying heavy objects, for hours. My body was in need of some rest! 

So, what better time than this to do some math! I love math. (sarcasm alert) I also figured that this might be a great opportunity to explain my processes regarding wheel building. So, if you are curious, here's how I go about getting things together before I actually take part in the act of lacing up wheels. Like most things, preparation is key. Get the prep right and the actual act of doing whatever it is you are trying to accomplish will go smoothly and quickly. 

The obvious thing you need up front is compatible parts. Lacing hubs with 28 holes requires rims with 28 holes. I know......but it had to be said! Many times people try to lace things up with non-matching spoke hole counts and for what? It's just not necessary or necessarily the best idea. So, avoid that at all costs. Then the next thing you need to figure out is what sort of spokes you want to use and what lacing pattern is best for your wheels. 

This is all my opinion, so keep in mind that wheel building is something of a religion with some folks. Meaning that they have 'rules' and 'practices' that shall not be broken or you shall be cast to the outer darkness of wheel building! Or something terrible like that. Anyway, I do not buy into that nonsense. I do what I feel are sensible things with a slight twist at times. Read on....this wheel build will be right up that alley. 

Getting the correct measurements off your hubs and rims is critical.
Okay, so I am of the mind that unless the hub manufacturer says you should not lace 3 cross, then you should lace 3 cross. (Rohloff recommends only 2 cross, as an example) I see no great benefits to doing things otherwise and you can end up with issues if you veer off the 3 cross way. But that said, I've done 2 cross, and in some cases 4 cross (tandem), so it is not a hard and fast rule. So, I am doing 3 cross here. Next, the spokes....

I know that people have their favorites. I have mine too. Mine is Wheelsmith. Some folks like DT Swiss. I've used them and I've used Sapim- all good. Stick with the mainstream brands and you'll have success. Nipples? You cannot go wrong with brass nipples. You can go wrong- but not necessarily so - with alloy nipples. If you know what you are doing, alloy is okay. Match the purposes with the material. Run the spokes up past the nipple flange. Okay? Then you are okay with alloy. Otherwise a brass nipple gets the job done well every time. I'll be using brass nipples on this particular wheel set. 

Finally- measure twice! This is critical to getting the math right to determine spoke length. The rim diameter at the point where the nipple seats into the rim is called the 'Effective Rim Diameter'. (ERD) That can be measured in a couple different ways, but I happen to have some old Wheelsmith spoke measuring rods. That's what I use. You can go by manufacturer spec numbers here, but measuring is always best practice. Then you have to measure the hub. 

You'll need three things here- Hub Flange Diameter, Hub Center To Flange on the drive side, and the same for the non-drive side. Sometimes I call it 'non-drive' and sometimes I call it 'disc side' depending upon the hub and whatnot. But the point here is that spoke calculations are made by getting the numbers (distances measured in millimeters) for the flange diameter, (measured from the center of spoke holes across a hub flange) the center line of the hub to the center line of a hub flange, and then that added to what you get for ERD. This- after the calculations-  will determine spoke length. It used to be that hubs were symmetrical, but now days with 'wheel dish' that is not the case, so you have to measure both sides of the hub. Disc brakes also cause 'dish', so make sure you carefully measure front disc hubs as well. 

Once you have all the numbers, you plug them into a spoke calculator. The one I like to use is on United Bicycle Institute's website. It has been really accurate for me over almost 25 years of using it. But there are others. DT Swiss has one a lot of people like as well. Whatever you choose to utilize, just know that the data you input needs to be as accurate as you can get it to help realize best results. Mostly this means that you should be using a digital calipers to get your measurements with. There are other tools, but a decent set of digital calipers for about $25.00 will get you the results you want if you use them correctly. 

Then you buy/order up your parts, (if you can find them) and the next step is to build. I'll get into how I do that for you all in my next update. Stay tuned..........

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Tale Of Two Trans Iowas: Part 2

"Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

The pre-race event for T.I.v12 was a rather good one, as far as those went. I never was as smooth or had it all together as I wanted to have it, and this despite making notes, and charts, and whatever I came up with. I don't know that I ever really ran the pre-race meeting the way I intended to for any Trans Iowa. Typically I'd lose my clipboard, the roster sheets, or forget half the stuff I wanted to say. I guess it never really mattered, since everything went well. 

 So, afterward when everything was wrapped up and I got a call from a rider that said he was missing a cue sheet in his set, I was really miffed. Was this a singular mistake or did we screw up more sets when we had the cue sheet stuffing party a few days ago? Now I had that on my mind! Well, first things first. I told the guy to get a hold of me at the start and I'd fix him up. One more detail to add to the pile! And you know from reading these tales that any mishaps with the cue sheets was a really big deal to me. So, I was feeling not so hot about this deal for hours afterward. 

The entire evening was a bit crazed what with that big Winny RV behind Bikes To You and all the car shuffling we had to do to get everything lined up for our early morning bug-out. I just recall being in a state of constant dealings with things until I finally laid my head down and caught a few precious moments of sleep. MG was there and had his wife's Subaru Forrester to haul me around in all the next day, night, and into Sunday. It was going to be a lot of fun to hang out with him, and he was excited as well. 

The iconic T.I.v12 start line image by Wally Kilburg. I have this print hanging in my living room.

So, the regular start line hoopla was in play. I was bopping around, talking with various riders, getting them lined up, (always like herding cats!), and then giving them all my little sermonette, as I always did. While this was happening Wally was futzing around with his camera about 15 yards away and I was off to the side, chatting with some racers. Then I decided to walk out to the middle of the front row and make a quick announcement, but before I had a chance, I heard Wally bellow, "Hey Mark!". I quickly turned around and saw that Wally had trained his camera on myself and the folks around me, so I made a quick decision to 'make a pose' and the spread leg, crossed arm thing was what I came up with. 

It was all spur of the moment, but I could tell from Wally's reaction that he was pleased with the shot. Then I turned around and got back to business and forgot all about the moment. Of course, I had a lot more pressing things on my mind right then. Moments later, I was off with MG in the blue Forrester and the start was a fading memory. It wasn't until much later on, when Wally sent me a preview of his shots from T.I.v12, that I saw the results of the start line image. It was stunning! I was super pleased with it. Wally took note and kindly printed a version of it out and sent it to me gratis. I have it hanging in a place of honor in my home to this day. 

The moon sets the morning of the first day of T.Iv12
So here I was sat in Matt Gersib's Suby and bouncing down a gravel road in the dark. Not very exciting reading there, but for me it was something that had not happened since I had David Pals as a co-director for T.I.v7. For myself? This was a huge difference maker. All I had to do was to tell MG where to turn and which way to go and man the phone. 

Again, that may not seem like a big deal, but speaking from experience, this was a game changing decision for me. It made putting on Trans Iowa so much easier it was crazy. Driving, navigating, trying to do social media, Trans Iowa Radio, and taking calls from volunteers, riders, and concerned people close to the event was a task which was far too difficult than it needed to be. Do that for a couple hours or so, no big deal. Try doing it for 24-30 hours straight. Maybe that helps paint the picture. 

Added in to this is the fact that now I had MG in a car to myself for a couple of days, which I was excited about. I have a deep friendship with him which I don't have with any other person. Sometimes now that Trans Iowa is done and with all that has happened with a global pandemic and whatnot I find myself feeling guilty for not being a better friend to him. I miss those long days and nights in the car with him. But at least I had those times, and they were mighty good ones. 

So, not only was this situation a big deal for the putting on of Trans Iowa, it was a big deal to me personally. I was excited. I think Matt was as well. This was going to be a good time, and it was one of the highlights for me during Trans Iowa v12. Had I not had MG driving me this would have perhaps been a lot tougher event on me than it ended up being anyway.

Riders navigate some of the early miles of Trans Iowa v12. Image by Celeste Mathias.

As the morning wore on towards Checkpoint #1 nothing much was really happening that was noteworthy. The early miles were marked by some pretty outstanding terrain. The imagery that came out of this part of the event was some of the best that any Trans Iowa produced. Of course, I had the talented Wally Kilburg and his cohort, George Keslin out there taking images. I have shared with you about those two before. However; for Trans Iowa v12 I had a new resource which became available to me. Not only was this good for imagery, but I had another set of 'eyes' out there which became immensely valuable to me for the last three Trans Iowa events. 

John Mathias, a very talented rider who had ridden in v7, v8, v9, v10, and v11, was now wanting to help as a volunteer. He and his equally talented wife, Celeste Mathias, decided to travel around the course as observers, and Celeste, being a hobbyist photographer herself, was to take some images for the event as well. I knew of her vast talents in imagery from Celeste's work for a Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational which John participated in previously and at which Celeste had done some very impressive imagery work.  

I'll be sprinkling my posts for v12 with the work of Wally and Celeste, but expect a single post showcasing the images in the coming weeks. 

A rider bombs down one of the many rollers found early in the course of T.I.v12. Image by Wally Kilburg.
Dawn shows the eerie morning fog during T.I.v12. Image by Wally Kilburg.

The course looped to the South and then it made a big push Eastward to go by Montezuma Iowa and then onward to points East. Fortunately the Sun illuminated the course enough through this section that the beauty of the land could be enjoyed by the riders and captured by Wally. It was a rather spectacular morning for the sights, that's for sure. 

This would turn out to be the calmest time of the event for many hours for me. Actually, I don't remember much about this particular bit of T.I.v12. Maybe it was the peacefulness, the ethereal look to the early morning hours, or maybe it was that I felt everything was solidly in hand concerning the event. I did have Mike Johnson and Tony McGrane running interference to catch anything untoward with signs and marking the course. I had that extra set of eyes with George and Wally and John and Celeste. I had MG driving me around and providing great companionship. It seemed too easy. 

Sharing the load with these folks did make putting on Trans Iowa easier, but ultimately, the responsibilities of certain aspects of the event were not sharable. It was things pertaining to those responsibilities which would be the most difficult thing to deal with for me during this Trans Iowa. 

Next; A Tale of Two Trans Iowas - Part 3

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Announcing Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2

A Pair of Spank 359 rims walked into the door Friday for this project.
 Back about five years ago now, I started a project to explore what a wider inner rim width might do for a set of gravel grinding wheels. I called it "Project Wide Gravel Wheels". (I know- what a genius name for a project, right? )

Anyway, probably six months after I launched those wheels out into the countryside a lot of wheel manufacturers were touting 24mm inner rim widths. Mine were 25mm, but the point is, my "wide gravel rims" were now ordinary. Hrrrumpf! 

Not that I cared that much. In fact, I was pleased to see it after my experimenting with 25mm inner rim width went really well. So, this was seemingly spot on. The industry seemed to go ahead with 24mm being at least something of a standard, but then things crept up wider. First it was 25mm, now I am seeing 26mm inner rim width. Hmm......

You all know I've been searching for some rims to match up with my DT Swiss hubs. Well, parts, as you all must realize by now, are near-non-existent. I had my eye on some Velocity Blunt SS rims, to be honest, and those are on back-order for me still. Those push the limits at 26.6mm inner rim width. So that is why I wanted to go there with my next wheel build. However; I got a text message late Thursday from a former co-worker and he informed me that he happened to have a brand new set of rims- 28 hole drilling- and he was willing to gift them to me for this wheel project. Thanks Craig!! 

Okay- so you got some MTB rims? Yes. See, this is part of my point with this trend toward wide internal dimensions for gravel. We already are using MTB rims! Look at what passed for MTB rims ten years ago. They were what we use now for gravel bikes. So, why not try something outrageous? I figured that the Velocity rims I was trying to get would be that, but these Spank 359 rims are truly outrageous! 

So, this project will really be a "Wide Gravel Wheel"  since the inner rim width will be a eye-popping 30.5mm wide! Ha! I doubt that the bicycle industry will quickly follow suit on that! I dare them to! So, at any rate, I aim to find out just what this crazy wide inner rim width will do, (other than the obvious), and I figure worse case scenario I just run 700 X 47-50mm tires on this wheel set. 

The hubs are black, the rims are black, and I am going with my "Guitar Ted Signature Spoke Set" which is all black spokes with silver nipples on one side of the wheel and all silver spokes and black nipples on the other half. By the way, the OG Project Wide Gravel Wheels were laced like that. Anyway, stay tuned! This should come together rather quickly now that I have parts in hand.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Friday News And Views

The Juiced Cross Current electrified bike. Image courtesy of Juiced
 A Recent Experience With An HPC:

 So since I work at Andy's Bike Shop, I get to see some of these electrified HPC's (Hybrid Powered Cycles) and really get to see how they are made and this time, how a particular model rode. Let me tell you- there is a big disconnect between what endemic cycling brands say and what reality is. 

So, the mainstream story on so-called 'e-bikes' is that there are three classes regulated so that anything outrageous, too fast, or anything you do not have to pedal is relegated to licensing and insurance, like a motorcycle. They call the rider-assisted type HPC's "pedelecs". Okay? So, the prevailing thought is that this whole segment is regulated and safe and orderly now. 

No, no, no! This segment is anything but well regulated. In fact, it is the wild, wild West, if it is anything. And- there is zero policing of rules anyway- so they are meaningless. Case in point- the Juiced brand model I worked on the other day. While it does have a 'pedelec' factor in that there is assist when you pedal, it has a throttle, and you don't have to pedal it. So, a hybrid of a hybrid. Anyway, this 56lb beast, (yes, that's what Juice claims, but it actually may be heavier), goes 28mph and gets to that speed in a very unnatural time. The pedal assist, while adjustable, is also very unnatural feeling- to me. 

Now, I get it- "It allows my________ (fill in the blank) to ride where otherwise....." Yes. Fine, I am onboard with all of that. Does it get 'more people out riding more often'? Maybe. I'm not convinced numbers are up around here because of HPC's, but maybe..... These people are getting the same 'work-out' as people riding 100% human powered rigs? That's a very dubious claim. After riding one of these and seeing how little effort is required? I am extremely doubtful of those statements. 

Also- This rig goes for $1600-$1700 depending upon options. That's a lot less than most 'bike shop brand' HPC's and- in my opinion- still too expensive for the general non-cycling or casual cycling public. The very people that HPC advocates are saying these cycles will appeal to. Plus- they are heavy, not very well spec'ed, and aren't serviced by many shops. Now we at Andy's do work on them, but I know most shops in the area will not touch these things. Of course, that's extremely helpful to the cause of the HPC (sarcasm alert). But this is the future. Sooner or later all shops will have to figure out how to work on these things. May as well start now.....

And that's my take on things HPC at this point.....

The HED Wheels Emporia GC3 carbon rimmed wheels. Image courtesy of HED

HED Wheels Amps Up Inner Rim Widths For Gravel:

I've opined on rim widths for gravel/back road wheels before, so I am not going to bang on about that a lot here, but HED Wheels' newest offering is another example of the 'wider is better' philosophy with its 26mm inner rim width. 

The 'other trend' this wheel set represents is that of lowering costs for carbon rimmed wheels. The mainstream brands are finally recognizing that many consumers are looking at and buying carbon rims from places like Nextie and other Far East firms which sell rims for not a lot more than what aluminum rims sell for. So, complete wheel set prices, for carbon rims, used to all be 2G+ and now we're seeing those prices float down to 1500 and in some cases, around a thousand bucks. The Spinergy GX wheels being a great example of that. 

Now, of course, you have some compromises when you spend less from the major brands. That HED wheel set is 1500+ grams, so it isn't going to wow you with incredibly easy to spin up feelings like, say a sub-1300 gram, super-expensive wheel set would. But at 1600-ish bucks? That's not bad. But you can even find less expensive wheels than that at about the same weight, like these from Bontrager, which are about 300 bucks less than the HED wheels are.  

In a time when everything is hard to get and when you do- it cost a lot more- this trend in carbon fiber rimmed wheels is nice to see. Will it last? Hard to say. My guess is that we will see things stabilize and maybe creep upwards in price, especially if places like Nextie start to move up on prices from where they are now. But if not, this competition is good for the buyer, and with all the quality options out there now, there are certainly more reasons than ever to check out a carbon wheel set for a gravel bike. 

The new Cannondale "Dave" jump bike. Image courtesy of Cannondale
Cannondale Debuts New Dirt Jump Bike:

You know that the shortages are real when a dirt jump bike with a single speed drive train and 26" wheels is 'big news' for a major brand. Usually this sort of introduction would get very little notice, but with not much else to talk about, the marketing 'paint brush' was all in on painting the picture for us in regard to the Dave and what it is for. 

But let's be honest here- Do we really need anyone to tell us about this bike? It is a 'big-person's BMX bike' and that's about all you need to go on. You know, tricks, jumping, hopping, general hooliganism. That's what Dave is all about. 

Have you heard those pundits that say "All Bikes Are Gravel Bikes"? Let's see them do a metric century on a Dave and ask them about that afterward. Ha! But the point is, this bike telegraphs its intended use quite well without any further explanations. Marketing just doesn't have a whole lot to do of late, so- you know- they have to justify their salaries and come up with something. (Again- sarcasm alert

I've seen bikes like these before come through my work stand. Frankly, they are nothing to get worked up about. They are tools to be used up, and most of the time, that's how they appear when I've seen such bicycles. Used up, ridden hard- put away wet. A hammer for those inclined to pound the bike park or urban landscapes with. If it is your cuppa tea, then this might be interesting. 

Oh, and by the way, Andy's Bike Shop is now a Cannondale dealer too. Full disclosure here...... 

Reminder On The Trans Iowa T-Shirt/Book Fund:

Last week I floated an idea by you all. It had to do with the series "Trans Iowa Stories" being put into a book format at some point and a way that you, the readers, could help that along a bit by buying a Trans Iowa v14 logo shirt. 

Click that link to learn more. What I wanted to do today was twofold- remind you of that opportunity to get in on the t-shirt and help out, (done), and there is one other thing I wanted to run by everybody here.

I was thinking the other day. "I'm writing this book, but I am a part of the story too. (Big part? Small part? Am I dreaming I ever was a part of it? You decide.....) I was thinking that what this project needs is a voice with no real horse in the race that could maybe ask some Trans Iowa riders and related folks what their take is on me, my part in things, and Trans Iowa in general. I do not have the proper perspective to undertake such a task. Plus, this book, if it happens, needs that angle to be interesting and complete. 

So, if you are interested in taking that on, or if you know anyone that might be interested in such a thankless task as looking into my contributions to Trans Iowa and the event itself, then comment,or contact me at g.ted.productions@gmail.com and I will discuss the idea with said individual. I cannot promise the efforts will result in anything but an experience to learn from, but you never know.... 

Okay, that's a wrap for another week. Get out and ride! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Country Views: The Living And The Dead

More traditional style hay baling observed just off Shaulis Road.
 These days are stringing together again like they had early in Spring- Warm, very dry, and very clear. A bit of a Southerly breeze this time. temperatures in the 80's. 

I grabbed the pink MCD and embarked from Prairie Grove Park again. I had envisioned a bigger ride in a remote location, but time got away from me and I wanted to spend the morning with my two kids again. Once lunch was over and I had let my digestive system do its thang, I was out the door and rolling on. 

Once again, I observed the 'traditional' hay baling going on right near by Prairie Grove Park. Makes sense here because that farm on the Northwest corner of 4th and Shaulis has draft horses. Gotta feed them horsies! I decided just to head South on Aker and see how I felt. Turns out I felt pretty good, despite the winds, but after reaching the corner of Quarry Road and Aker I stopped and decided I just didn't have time for an almost 40 mile ride. That's what I really wanted to do, but practicality and the road layout dictated that I do a shorter route instead. 

Big blue skies and green carpets of vegetation underneath.
These are not 'traditional 'square bales'. These are about the size of a Smart Car.

The Red Winged Blackbirds are getting aggressive now. They were having a bit of an issue with the winds, so it depended upon which direction I was going to whether or not they could possibly harass me. A couple got pretty close. Once a bird found my 'draft' it had a chance to come up from behind me. That's their favorite way to 'attack' you. 

I learned this and have tried various tricks to avoid or dissuade them from pestering me. I landed upon an unusual observation with these birds. They do not attack if they can see your eyes. Cowardly little bastards, they are! So, I devised a plan where I thought that I would paint on some eyes on the backside of my helmet. I kept pushing that idea off and then forgetting it, so I thought of something else.

I have an 'eye' with me all the time anyway. A camera! That big, glassy lens looks like an eye, close enough, so I decided to just grab it when I heard a bird get close- Red Winged Blackbirds cluck incessantly while on the attack- and I would point the lens at the offending bird. It seems to be working, but I'll have to verify this on future rides. 

 I found this deceased Dickcissel on my ride.

Decision stop

Of course, live birds are one thing to expect on any ride around here in the Summer, but dead ones? I was a bit amazed and dismayed to find a dead dickcissel right in the middle of the road. It looked undamaged, so I wonder if it was struck by a passing vehicle. I don't know, but it was a beautiful little creature. 

At any rate, that was extremely unusual. I certainly have not seen anything quite like that in many a year. Despite the numerous Red Winged Blackbirds flitting about, none of them appeared to have suffered a similar fate, nor have I noted that they have in years past. You''d think you'd come across at least a few, seeing as how there must be thousands of these little trouble makers about Black Hawk County alone. 

A field of soybeans looking a little tepid. 

It'd be nice if those clouds would produce some rain. We could use it.

The word of the ride was 'dry'. Dry roads turning to powder. Dry fields making things look a little weak. The air was even drier than you'd like to see it in June. At least for Iowa. We're due for rain here, and it looks like today, (Thursday as this gets posted), is the day. Hopefully we don't get the severe with the good wet stuff. 

I felt great during this ride. I'm trying to decide now what tires to run at Gravel Worlds. The Pirelli Cinturato tires which I used on this ride are on the list, but I have a set of Teravail Rutlands too, and they are nice. I have to A/B these wheels/tires and decide what to use soon. 

Once I am settled on that, I have a few details to attend to and then I will start training rides with the full set up so I can get acquainted with the weight and handling traits. Then it'll be longer rides, (hopefully), and good times,(again- hopefully), until mid-August comes around. That'll be soon enough......

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Still Waiting

You probably forgot all about the plans for these hubs. Six months have gone by and I nearly had forgotten all about those hubs as well. This is a post that should illustrate what is going on for many folks out there in terms of getting parts. 

Back in January, I got a few ideas lined up and I decided I needed to wait a bit on ordering up anything, because, well......I like to be able to pay for what I ask for that is for personal use. But I know, that may be just me. Anyway.... 

By the time I had worked up enough cash, it was late Winter. And.......all my choices were back ordered or indefinitely out of stock. Andy, who I work for, asked if I wanted to let my order ride. It was really not a hard decision. I let it ride.....

Then later on we were checking in on a couple of other back ordered rims we had asked for and were told that my order was due in August. AUGUST! Those 28 hole silver Bontrager rims I have in the Lab are looking better all the time! This may be the longest wheel build process I have ever been involved with. And no- I still am not desperate enough to use those old Bonty rims........yet!
 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

It's All Settled Then

Well, it looks like we're gettin' 'the band' back together again and goin' ta Gravel our Worlds this August again around Lincoln, Nebraska. This likely will be the only event I do all year this year.

There was a possibility of doing the Gent's Race but members of the team are away doing other things and well, that streak is broken. So, we'll not be doing that this year. That left Gravel Worlds. I am signed up, but I hadn't had the chance to talk to Tony about it, he being my usual traveling companion for this event for several years now. Anyway, Friday he came into the shop and we got the game plan in place. We'll be there, usual place, usual time.

So, I've got some work yet to do. This has me thinking now about the bike I'll use, how I will approach this one, and what I need to get done in the meantime. It'll be hot, humid, and likely windy. No big surprises with weather. Been there, done that a bunch of times. While I've tried this event several times, I've only ever finished it once- in 2016, so I would dearly like to finish it again.

The last go-round with Gravel Worlds, I used the Fargo, which is the bike I used the only time I've finished this deal in '16. Things were going great, until they weren't. I got to the Malcom General Store and I was cooked. 

The long road back to Lincoln was one filled with shame and regret for not knowing quite how or why my battle with heat never seems to go my way in this- or some other Summer events I've tried. But yeah.... I think it is an electrolyte issue I have. Sleepiness, bonking, just plain running out of energy. My body seems to just quit on me at this event, and I guess I need to really work a bit more on the area of being properly 'balanced' during these hot weather efforts. 

And to be completely fair to myself, I've changed a lot of things since 2019. I quit drinking almost entirely. Still might have a beer or two on the weekend, but maybe not. I changed up my diet again. I've lost a bit of weight since 2019 and I feel better than I have in heat in years. I understand a bit better when it comes to what I need to do with hydration, and the doesn't mean drinking more, it has to do with what I am drinking. I had been using an electrolyte for years, but in the last several years I got away from that. Bad decision. 

I'm leaning toward taking this bicycle for the Gravel Worlds voyage.

As far as the gear, I also have learned a lot. That Fargo was set up a bit differently in '16 and while those parts and pieces are not around now, I have a very similar choice in those regards with the way I currently have the pink MCD set up. So, I think a few very minor tweaks from what you see up above here is all it will take to get me Gravel Worlds ready in terms of the bike. 

Anyway, there is some time yet to do those tweaks, ride a lot, and try some of these newer ideas for nutrition out, and then point all of that towards knocking out a 150 miles around Lincoln come mid-August. I look forward to it, and most of all, to seeing old friends once again.

It's been far too long...........

Monday, June 14, 2021

650B vs 700c For Gravel

No "Country Views" today- I had a little graduation celebration to attend to.
 Normally I would have a big ride report today, but I had a busy weekend setting up for, attending, and tearing down for my son's graduation celebration for his final High School year. In between doing all those things I did get around to swapping back the Standard Rando v2 to 700c wheels and tires and getting a couple of shorter rides in on it. I wanted to get a feel for the bigger diameter wheel again before giving my assessment on the 650B vs 700c wheel debate for gravel bicycles. 

Also, and obviously if you hang around here for very long, I have been riding other 700c wheeled bicycles on gravel right alongside the Twin Six Standard Rando v2 with 650B wheels for months. So, this post will also draw from all those experiences, plus my past thoughts and experiences with both wheel sizes going back for several years now. So, without further adieu, here are my thoughts on the wheel sizes and why I would choose one over the other. 

So, some of this opinion has been formed over a decade of messing about on 27.5"/650B MTB wheels and tires. I have ridden several bikes with that wheel size on mountains, gravel, single track, and on the road. Of course, at one point a lot of people thought that 650B/27.5, (they are essentially the same thing, so don't get confused), was going to knock 29"er wheels and tires out and take over the MTB world, but as we all know, 27.5"ers have, to a great extent, been relegated to being the size better suited to shorter statured riders off-road. But, as we now know, 29"ers actually gained ground on 27.5"ers over the years, and it is now the established wheel size for many styles of MTB bikes. 

I mention this because as others have formed their own opinions over the years, and market forces naturally selected out which bikes have big wheels and which do not, the findings I have regarding the 650B vs 700c debate for gravel follow roughly the same thoughts as many others have come around to over the years. That said, I have had strongly held opinions about each wheel size for over decade and a half of riding, reading about, and writing about these wheels. So, that's where I am coming from here. 

650B for Gravel: 

The most recent review I wrote for RidingGravel.com was for a set of 650B tires, so I rode those wheels and tires for the better part of three months most recently. I have ridden 650B gravel wheels and tires before that, most often for all those WTB tires that came out, and last year for some IRC tires, so it isn't like I haven't been on 650B for a long time before this. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what is going on here. 

In my opinion this wheel size does a couple things for you. One- It gives you more cushion, if you choose the right tires. It is close to what you might get out of a heavier, larger wheel with wide tires. That is- if you are comparing similar quality wheels. A heavy, entry level 650B wheel set will just plain suck compared to a decent set of 700c wheels and tires, and vice versa. If all the 700c wheels were heavy and all you could get were nice 650B wheels, then the choice is obvious. Nice wheels (light, strong, stiff laterally) trump all including diameter, to a degree, and especially for this discussion. More on that in relation to my specific situation in a bit....

But the point is, big air volume = better comfort, theoretically. The truth is, 650B kind of gets you there, but there is something missing, which I will bring up in a bit. 

Secondly, those wider tires can aid in getting over rougher, looser gravel and dirt with more stability. You get maybe a bit better flotation too, so a bit better in mud, loose sand, etc. A wider footprint, if you will, and that is something that, if we are talking running 700 X 43 or 650B X 47-50? In the same bike? That's where it makes a difference. But keep in mind, this debate is mostly about the bikes that claim to fit either wheel size, but have clearance limitations, like my Standard Rando here. 

But the big bummer with these wheels, in my opinion, is that they just do not carry momentum like a larger diameter wheel. And maybe you are not at all in 'tune' with that. Then you will not understand my criticism here. But, as a single speeder first, I crave momentum and use it often. 650B looses that momentum faster than a bigger wheel, like 700c X 45mm, let's say. I can feel this every time I ride 650B. These wheels also do not have that roll over effect, the way a big wheel does, so they seem to feel rougher, and things have more of a 'zing' to the hands when you hit them with 650B wheels. So, remember that air volume thing? Some of that gets lost in the trade-off to a smaller diameter wheel. 


700c for Gravel:

So, if you have a bike that takes both wheel sizes, you likely have the option for wider, 650B X 47/48mm tires or something like 700c X 43-45mm. Which do you choose? Well, I already have told you a few things about why I would choose 700c, but what are the downsides? Well, in this specific situation, 700c looses that 'big-volume' tire thing. So, it doesn't float as well, it is not as stable on looser soils and gravel, and you cannot tease out as much comfort with air pressure settings like you can with 650B. That said, in the case of this Standard Rando v2, I am much happier with the bike in 700c mode. 

These wheels just roll over stuff better and they stay rolling with more ease. Oh, yeah....one other thing. This has specifically to do with single speed bikes, but a smaller wheel diameter lowers the gear versus everything else being the same but the wheel size getting slightly larger, as it does with 700c. So, now with the 700c wheels, I have a slightly 'taller' gear, but I'll adapt to that quickly. I could approximate similar gearing range by varying the rear cog by one tooth, but I have the same cogs for both wheel sets. 

And speaking of that, I promised I would get back to the wheels. I wanted to point out that in my comparison here, the 650B wheels you see are the same model as the 700c ones. They are both Irwin Cycles Aon Carbon 35's. The only difference is the diameter. So, this is an apples to apples comparison in this case. 

So, while some of the benefits of 650B are worthwhile to pursue, for general purpose gravel riding I choose 700c. I choose the 650B option when flotation and traction are imperative, as in Wintry conditions, or on really soft, early Spring roads, as a for instance. But most of the time I'm going to run 700c and it works better, in my opinion, than 650b for all-around stuff. Again- this only applies to bicycles like my T-6 Standard Rando which cannot clear big 700c rubber. I mean, I have  put 650B on a Fargo, but for most riding I'd do, a 29"er tire would work better on a bike that can clear a 29"er tire. 


Which brings me to bikes like my Black Mountain Cycles MCD, or an Otso Warakin, or several others of that ilk that can clear up to a 29" X 2.0 tire. In some cases even bigger. Here the need to swap in 650B wheels and tires is even less, in my opinion. Maybe if you are 5'4", that's a different story, but for me at 6'1"? I'm never going to want to swap 650B wheels and tires into the MCD, not when I can run a 700c X 47mm tire like the Teravail Rutlands.

So, to my way of thinking 650B is a good option if it makes sense for a specific bike/situation. But again- for most riding and for many bicycles? I am opting for 700c. That's my take on things.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Tale of Two Trans Iowas - Part 1

GT giving the riders the lowdown at the Pre-Race Meat-Up for v12 (Image by Scott Sumpter)
  "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject  by clicking on the "Trans Iowa Stories" link under the blog header. Thanks and enjoy! 

Friday at the pre-race event for the twelfth Trans Iowa I was able to pass on the news about the re-route past Checkpoint #1. That was just the beginning of troubles both known and unknown which came out of this event for me. The riders were insulated from much of this, however; and many never knew anything was amiss until well afterward, if they ever knew at all. 

On the one hand, the event was a smashing success in terms of rider's experiences. But as things unfolded during the event, a slew of circumstances arose which caused me no end of stress. And if that wasn't enough, two more things which happened during this edition of Trans Iowa were revealed which also were a kick in the gut. One I found out about almost immediately afterward, but another thing that happened didn't turn up until after Trans Iowa v13 happened. Both of these things were contributors to my decision to end the event eventually. But I am getting ahead of myself here.

The point is that Trans Iowa v12 is really a tale of two events. On the one hand, it was an overwhelmingly successful, record breaking event which was probably one of- if not the most- popular Trans Iowa ever. It featured a near breaking of the mythical 24 hour barrier. There were a lot of good times along the way, both from my standpoint and from the riders as well. But the other side of this event was one of conflicts, injury, hooliganism, and hiccups in the event process. All told, this Trans Iowa took a huge toll on me. The events of my life going in, (recently recounted in a previous 'Trans Iowa Stories' post here) and the whirlwind of activities I had lined up immediately afterward made it so that I was torn to pieces emotionally and stretched physically further than I should have allowed. 

So, in the next few editions of this series I am going to tell the tales which were the good and the bad concerning this event. I have already covered the re-route, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. I will walk through all of the good and the bad in chronological order. Although a couple of these things that happened I was unaware of at the time, I will insert those stories in where they belong as they happened. In fact, the two stories I have to tell which I was unaware of actually happened during the evening of the Pre-Race Meat-Up.

George Keslin (foreground-left) helped many times at the registration table for Trans Iowa

First, an unprecedented and rather disturbing event happened in one of the motels we used for Trans Iowa racers and support people. Someone's support guy had a bit too much to drink and proceeded to vomit all over one of the hallways leading to a hot tub area. This happened to be where a Slender Fungus member and Trans Iowa super-fan/rider/veteran of the event, Ari Andonopoulous was staying. He related to me shortly after Trans Iowa v12 that a motel worker was so upset by the mess that she was crying. 

I was appalled! I routinely had to sign off for any possible damages to rooms and motel property to get the discounted rate for riders to use for lodging at Trans Iowa. I guessed that I could have been tagged for extra cleaning costs, but thankfully, I was not. However; what I was most upset about was that someone made a very poor decision, then left the consequences of their actions to someone else to clean up- literally and figuratively. Having been a person that has had to clean up a drunk's vomit on occasion, I know how awful a job that can be. So this really was shocking to me- that someone would be so careless and thoughtless to do such a thing at Trans Iowa. I was extremely disappointed by this.

The next thing I found out about post-Trans Iowa v13 when a thread was going around about that event on Facebook. In it a T.I.v12 rider suggested that everyone riding any future T.I.'s do 'what all the leaders were doing' which he claimed was a trick for navigation. No names were named, but this individual outed himself as one that used this 'trick'. The trick, which was to take the first set of cues and download them into a GPS device and then use them as navigation prompts, meant that riders didn't have to read the cues. They just listened for the prompt to turn and looked to see which way on their device and rode on. 

Riders were taking these notes and downloading them into their GPS devices.
This clearly was in violation of my 'no GPS' rule, and when I found out my heart sank. On one hand, I should have known, right? Navigation by cue sheets is hard, and people do not like it, but that was a big part of Trans Iowa's challenge. To circumvent that, even for just 40-50 miles, was a huge advantage for fast guys that could afford GPS devices. The time to plug in 50 miles worth of cues wasn't a big deal when you had the cues in hand 8 hours ahead of the start. 

Once again I had to make an adjustment, and this was one of my biggest regrets concerning Trans Iowa. I consider handing out the first set of cues before the start at the Pre-Race my biggest failure in putting on Trans Iowa. I wish I had not done that for as long as I had, especially when I saw my change for T.I.v14 in action. The difference was huge and it made for a different sort of event. A better event, if you ask me. 

While it is true that I didn't experience these negatives during T.I.v12, these two things came out of T.Iv12, and it just so happens that chronologically, they happened at about the same time. Both were two more chinks in the armor against stopping Trans Iowa. Two more things that contributed to the 'pile' of things on the negative side of the ledger. 

But when you do something long enough, you are going to experience the fall-out from decisions made by people that you'd rather not have happen. Things that you had not considered would, or that might happen. Your trust in people erodes, and your anxiety levels increase. But that is not all. There are the mistakes unforeseen, and chance happenings which can also rear their heads and make you crazy too. That also happened during this Trans Iowa........

Next: A Tale of Two Trans Iowas - Part 2

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Country Views: High Traffic

Those puffy skies belied a furnace of a day
 Wednesday I had the whole family home. A far cry from a week ago when they were in Texas and I was here alone. So, I spent all morning with them and ate lunch with them before I was ready to go out for a ride. Normally they all would have been away working and doing school or whatnot. This is a rare situation and one that won't happen often in the future. Gotta grab that time when I can. 

Anyway, since time was short and it was right in the hottest part of the day, I didn't plan anything big. Just a couple of hours North of town would have to do. So, I hauled the bike to Gates Park tennis court parking and hopped over to Moline Road and just pointed the bike North and pedaled. 

The gravel was about perfect and there was almost zero wind, but it was well into the 90's and even with the puffy clouds, there was not much relief from the heat. I took the speed back a notch and tried to spin more. It seemed to be going well and the miles started clicking off. I felt pretty good, actually. 

Road block! An ag sprayer leaving a field.

It turned out that there was a lot of spraying going on this particular day.

The low winds must have prompted many farmers to get out their spraying rigs and get out into the fields. I hardly could go a few miles without seeing some sort of sprayer rig in a field or traveling in between fields on gravel roads. 

I decided to turn East on Gresham Road and then head back on Sage Road for the day. Before I got up to Gresham Road I noticed several trucks also running to and fro. Hmm...... A high traffic day in the country! 

A truck heads east up Gresham Road.

The Pioneer Cemetery on Gresham Road

As I came across on Gresham Road and turned back South on Sage Road I felt a Southeast breeze in my face. Honestly, with as hot as it was, it felt great to have a bit of a headwind. I still kept things to a manageable pace. I haven't had but two hot weather rides in a row this year, and this was one of them. I then noted a noise. Hmm.....Creak.....creak....creak.... 

I had addressed the screw together Press Fit 30 bottom bracket earlier, and it sounded more 'plasticky' than a bottom bracket, if that makes sense. The other day I thought it was a loose through axle bolt, because I tightened it and the creak went away. however; once I stopped I found that wasn't it this time. So, what was it?

Another sprayer rig

Well, my experiences tracking down that creak on that Stormchaser I had around here about a year ago came in handy here. I decided that it might be loose water bottle mounts, and I had a Wolf Tooth B-Rad on the seat tube bottle mount to drop my cage lower to fit underneath my Revelate Tangle Bag, And you know what? I found three loose bolts! 

Well, that was great! Plus, I got a nice break from toiling away under the hot Sun while I was tightening bolts. Then it was a short-ish cruise to the truck and back home again. I tell ya! That heat knocked the stuffins outta me on this day. I have a LOT of acclimating to do before I'll be good to ride all day in this weather.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Friday News And Views

Pirelli Smartube is a lightweight TPU tube alternative.
New Tube Technology In 2021? Pirelli Smartube:

Pirelli announced recently that they have a butyl tube alternative in a product they have named "Smartube". It is made from TPU, a material which allows Pirelli to claim that these new Smartube tubes have twice the puncture resistance than butyl tubes and weigh far less. 

They also are compact. Maybe you've seen the Tubolito tubes before? These are similar only they are designed to go with Pirelli's bicycle tires. (Not sure why you couldn't use them with other, appropriately sized tires, so there is that as well.)

The 'gravel sized' Smartube weighs 49 grams, so yes- a lot lighter! Like Tubolito tubes, these Smartubes are expensive. The suggested retail is $36.90 for each. They come in many sizes to fit tires specifically, which is important with these tubes as they do not stretch as well as a butyl rubber tube does. 

Comments: So, who would buy tubes that cost nearly 40 bucks a piece? Well, not many would! However; if you are in an event, say like last weekend's UG in Emporia, an event known to be tough on tires, then packing several of these Smartubes would save a LOT of weight and space. Bikepacking is another niche where weight and space savings might make these appealing as a back-up to tubeless set ups. 

One interesting thing to note here= Pirelli strictly advises against using the Smartube with a rim brake set up. I'm guessing that is because of heat. Perhaps the chances of excessive heat build up on the rim is a recipe for Smartube failure. That may be a bit of a bummer since many folks using road racing style bikes would perhaps be a prime candidate for these tubes. 

This would be a great idea if I were to go touring again with a disc brake bike. But for my normal gravel travels? I'm perhaps a bit too 'cheap' in my bones to pop for a tube I may never use that cost nearly 40 dollars. Your mileage may vary......

Revonte One Drive HPC drive system eliminates derailleurs.

More On That Derailleur-less HPC Drive System:

Last December I posted about this 'more-moto-like' drive system for HPC bikes. Now some more details are known about Revonte's "One Drive" system for Hybrid Powered Cycles (HPC's) and this probably could go full-throttle only as well. The leap is only a matter of tweaking some software. 

According to the trade news site, "Bike Europe", in a recent article, they tell the story about the developers behind this drive system. many of the team are former Nokia employees, and so these designers and software engineers took a different approach to designing a drive system. It is mostly a software controlled system, and therefore a design which can be modified to work on bikes ranging from cargo, mountain, urban, to road. This eliminates the need to develop different drive systems for different types of bikes. They can do this via a planetary system of gears and a CVT type arrangement of them, making for a theoretically 'infinite' amount of gears within the gear range. 

Interestingly, the system doesn't focus on weight or traditional bike drive train design. This is completely the opposite of where most big-brand electrified bikes are coming from. One downfall could be that the system relies so heavily on digitized mechanisms and internet connectivity. If something fails on either the digital platform or the internet, the bike becomes a boat anchor. With more traditionally based HPC designs, you could possibly ride home, albeit with a very heavy bike! 

But what I find interesting is how this takes away a lot of limitations that traditional frame, wheel, and drive design has which force bicycles to be a certain format which brings about the look we are all familiar with. This drive system will likely free up designers of HPC's to go with more moto-inspired designs. One more step towards these things being more not-a-bicycle anymore. 

Wolf Tooth's new WT-1 Chain Lube

Wolf Tooth Gets Into The Lube Game:

This week a new chain lube hits the market. Wolf Tooth introduces the new WT-1 chain lubrication product which Wolf Tooth claims takes the place of 'wet', and 'dry' chain lubes, and does cleaning, chain protecting, while lasting a claimed 3-5 times longer than competing chain lubrication products. 

Here is a bit of what Wolf Tooth has to say about WT-1 from the press release I was sent:

"As a synthetic chain lubricant, WT-1 will improve the mechanical efficiency of a drivetrain while lasting 3-5x longer than most other chain lubes because it binds so well with chains. As a chain treatment, WT-1 will clean a chain by pushing dirt and debris to the surface where it can be wiped away, then it will protect the chain in all riding conditions and allow cyclists to ride longer between applications."

The new WT-1 comes in 0.5 fluid ounce bottles for $6.95 USD or in 2.0 fluid ounce bottles for $18.95 USD. You can check out all the details on Wolf Tooth's site here

Comments: I know what you might be thinking: "Well, there ya go, Guitar Ted! Another lube for the "Lube-Off"!", and you'd be right. I may have to grab a bottle of this stuff for the next round. Honestly, as I stated in my update on the SCC Tech Lube a couple of days ago, this seems to be the trend in chain lubricants- a full-spectrum type lube. the idea of "wet" and "dry" lubricants seems to be falling out of favor of late. Also, I noted that Wolf Tooth tells you to expect a bit of dirty (black) residue to get worked out of a chain that you use this on. Sounds a LOT like the SCC Tech and Blue Devil lubricants I am trying out right now. In fact, it may be SCC Tech Lube. A person I know and respect on Facebook seems to believe this is a collaboration between Wolf Tooth and SCC Tech. Could be, but I haven't seen this substantiated officially.

Stay tuned, I may be trying this, (or I already am trying this), and another reader suggested lube, very soon. Also- NOTE: Info and images for this entry on the "FN&V" was provided by Wolf Tooth in a press release.

Supply Chain Woes To Continue For Shimano Components Due To COVID-19: 

While we here in the U.S. seem to be leaving the pandemic behind, this is not at all the case worldwide. Late last night news broke that the Shimano factory in Malaysia, responsible for the bulk of manufacturing of low end to mid-range bicycle componentry, is completely shut down. "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" reports that the factory, at 60% capacity since June 1st due to rising COVID-19 cases in Malaysia and subsequent lockdown, has been closed until further notice. 

Case numbers in the country continue to be reported at levels which have caused the Malaysian government to deepen the lockdown and this state will remain until at least June 21st when the government there will review the situation once again. According to the BRAIN article, only 4% of the Malaysian populace has been vaccinated. 

Comments: This is really bad news for the bicycle industry. Shimano, who have had the bulk of component spec on bikes which this Malaysian factory would have been making parts for, will also be hurt by this, no doubt. However; what we can expect is that there will be even further delays and lack of lower end to mid-priced bikes available for even longer than we had once thought. 

Could other factories/brands step up and take the slack up? Doubtful- Why would they if they are already running at capacity and could not build machines and buildings fast enough to avert the lengthening of shortages? Plus, once things finally do come around, Shimano is likely going to pick that spec business back up again. There simply is no other choice for this segment of the market that makes good enough components at the quantities that Shimano gets out of their Malaysian facilities. Not at this point in time, at any rate.

So, yeah...... Get settled in. This is going to take a long time to sort out. I think it is an even bigger point here to keep others in mind world-wide that are not as fortunate as us in America and elsewhere that are enjoying the freedom from lockdowns, masks, and loss of income. Bicycles not getting made is not a deal breaking situation. People dying and getting long-term illnesses and mental damage from this pandemic? That's far more important to deal with here. 

Update On T.I. Shirt Deal: Ari has the details on the shirts which are to raise money for a possible T.I. book HERE.

That's a wrap for this week. Stay cool, get some riding in, and have a great weekend. Thanks for reading!