Friday, November 12, 2021

Friday News And Views

 Gravel Riding Clinics To Be Held In Grinnell:

Several years ago I started up an idea to hold a clinic to help those wondering about Trans Iowa, and gravel riding in general. We held it in Des Moines, and at that time, there was an outcry for information to the extent that I was being asked to YouTube the event for consumption after the event was over. I just did not have the resources or emotional energy for such a project on top of everything else I had going on back in 2013.

I have helped with a gravel clinic series here in Waterloo which we called the Iowa Gravel Expo and Bike Party. N.Y. Roll and I put these series of events on locally from 2018-2020. Again, judging from attendance from all corners of the state I knew that this was a viable idea for the gravel-curious. 

So, it comes as no surprise to me that Grinnell's Prairie Burn 100 event directors and Imagine Grinnell have teamed up to put on the "Burner Gravel Clinics". (Note-Link takes you to the Prairie Burn 100's Face Book page) 

You can see all the pertinent info in my image here, but if you want to know more you can contact Imagine Grinnell through there website here, or head to Prairie Burn 100's Face Book page linked above. 

WTB Debuts The Vulpine 700 X 36mm Tire:

This past Tuesday WTB announced the newest tire for gravel in their range, the Vulpine. I was a bit surprised that this tire was only offered in the one size to start out with, (Hoping that wider sizes come out later), but hey! I am happy too, because I had been pushing for a gravel Vulpine in TCS (tubeless ready) for years. 

So, way back when the Fargo Gen I was introduced, it came with Vulpine 29" X 2.1" tires. The Vulpine back then was not a tubeless tire. It also had a LOT lower tread pattern down the middle as it was a semi-slick XC racing tire to begin with. Those types of tires were falling out of favor in 2008 after about ten years or so of prominence. 

Anyway, I ended up loving the Vulpine on gravel. At the time, tubeless tires were just getting a footing in the MTB market and anything coming out after 2010 for MTB was generally also released as a tubeless ready tire. But WTB was phasing out the older designs they had then, and the Vulpine was shelved. 

So, when WTB introduced the Nano 40 in TCS around 2016, I was on the warpath with WTB to get the Vulpine out again in the TCS format for gravel usage. Their former brand manager, Will Ritchie, knew all too well what I would say anytime talk of new gravel tires came up. "Make the Vulpine again!", I would say, and he'd always graciously reply that he was putting in my requests, but that was all he could really do to make it happen. Ultimately it was up to higher powers at WTB to pull that lever that would release a new Vulpine to the masses. 

Will even sent me the very last Vulpine 29"er tire WTB had in its warehouse. A survivor that had escaped notice until it surfaced one day and Will grabbed it and sent it off to me as a way to say that he had not let my requests fall upon deaf ears. I really and truly appreciated that gesture, and I still do to this day. 

For more on the new Vulpine read my post here.

Cannondale's Scalpel HT. Image courtesy of Cannondale.

Cannondale Debuts New Scapel HT XC Racing Bike:

It isn't often that I write about mountain bikes anymore. That is because most mountain bike news these days has been centered around "Enduro" or motorized bikes, or both things together. None of which is relevant to me at all. 

So, when something gets announced that I could see myself riding, I get my ears pricked up. Such was the case Tuesday of this week when Cannondale announced its new, range-topping hard tail XC racing bike, the Scalpel HT

It features a pretty slack head angle of 66.5° which is fairly radical when I think back ten years ago or more in terms of hard tail mountain bikes. I remember when anything slacker than 71° for a 29"er was considered "a wheel barrow" in terms of handling. But now? Pfft! Par for the course to have a choppered out front end on a hard tail. 

And seat angles have steepened up to 74° or so on several bikes. That's just super-weird to me, but hey! The kidz love it. What do I know? Maybe this Scalpel would rule on Iowa single track? Maybe...

I've ridden MTB's with pretty slack head angles on our single track and I found that you kind of have to steer them off the back wheel. Older, steeper bikes you could pin the front wheel down on and rail a corner, maybe even drifting the rear end around. It's just a very different way of doing things now with these slacker head angled bikes, in my opinion. One way isn't necessarily better than another. But maybe when it comes to short, steep climbs? Maybe there I prefer the older geometry which doesn't have all that wandering front wheel flop thing going on. Anyway....

An interesting twist to the traditional XC racing hard tail at least. 

A Guitar Ted Blast From The Past:

I was reminded the other day of an interview I did with "CX Mag" concerning the state of all things gravel. This was conducted in 2018, right at the end of my run with Trans Iowa, so I couldn't let on at the time that 2018's version of the event was my last. Anyway...

Here's the link.

From time to time I think I'll share old stories and tales from other sources where I was interviewed or that I had something to do with. I sometimes forget my own history with all things bicycle related and it maybe would be good for me to remind y'all of those things. Plus, you'll probably enjoy these looks back anyway if you read this blog. 

Okay, so that's a wrap on this week! Got snow coming? It's just around the corner, I think. Get out and ride if you can and have a great weekend.

1 comment:

MuddyMatt said...

Hi Mark, I feel the complete opposite about modern MTB geometry. My experience - I have a Bird AM Zero with a 64.5 degree head angle, a 76 degree seat angle and a 1201mm wheelbase - is that you have to steer them very much from the front.

Anytime the trail is twisty or technical enough to need getting out of the saddle (or rather, slightly dropping the saddle) then you need a slight hip shift forward to weight the front wheel. Then it handles fantastically well. If you sit back, it understeers into the boondocks on tight singletrack as you'd imagine.

Uphill - the thing climbs like a goat provided you are seated (another point where the ability to raise and lower the saddle pays off). If you stand and grind a climb then it feels pretty odd with the long wheelbase and out front wheel. You can do it, but you will clear harder climbs seated, and with 50T+ cassettes, it's very easy to do.

Nuances on the modern MTB geometries are incredibly important, as is riding style - they do not make for great singlespeed bikes - but when one works for you it's great fun. I've happily ridden mine all day, basically seated for climbs, 'active' for the twisties.

XC bikes have very much moved toward trail hardtails and the Cannondale is an example as racers have found the same qualities benefit them (to an extent - XC courses are pretty gnarly these days too).

The MTB crowd know a thing or two about going fast over steep terrain, but this is not the same as what many of us like to do which is cover good distances over contouring trails and unmetalled roads. Which is why some 'gravel' bikes are morphing too, toward more rugged capabiliites and suspension!

I guess it all comes down to finding the right tool for the job you are trying to do, but I think I agree you'd find much of interest on that Cannondale.