Monday, July 31, 2023

I Was Ready

The Twin Six Standard Rando v2 before...
 Around this time of year I start getting the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational reminders, as if that were necessary, and I get that anxious feeling that I need to pull off that long ride again like I used to. Well, this year something came up that would have fit right in to my needs and served another purpose. The thing is, a nail in the wrong place changed everything. That and this may all have been for the best anyway. 

I'll explain....

I have family all over the country that I never get to see. Cousins mostly. Well, one of them messaged me about a week and a half ago saying that if I were on RAGBRAI that I needed to stop in Toledo, Iowa, because she and another cousin, her brother, would be there for the week anyway. I replied that I would not be on RAGBRAI, (big surprise!), but maybe Friday would work out for me to come down to see them for a bit. 

This would have been nearly a hundred mile round trip by bicycle on gravel. Hmm.... Yeah, that'd work! So I set my mind to getting the Twin Six Standard Rando set up for a long ride in the country. I needed to address a few things on that bike first though, chief amongst those being the handle bar.

That Easton handle bar was just not cutting it for me, and it was because it has so little flare as to be nonexistent. I need a flared bar for the ergonomics of them that help ease the pain I can get in my left shoulder, arm, and hand. So, that carbon bar came off and an aluminum Cowchipper bar went on there.

I also attached my BarYak Expedition "aero" bar set up for a different position on the bike, thinking that might also help relieve pain and help me on longer straight sections into any headwind I might encounter. There would be a headwind. The route was essentially straight South and North. 

I stocked my bags with tools, food, gear, and gathered up all the water bottles. Things were all set to "go" on Thursday afternoon, but Thursday evening I found out something from Mrs. Guitar Ted. She had a slow leak in the rear tire of her car, and she relies on that vehicle for her job. So.....

There it is!

I cancelled the ride plans so I could fix Mrs. Guitar Ted's car after she went to work. So, I drove here there, brought the car back home, and since I don't have a garage available, I did this out in the street off a jack. Oh... I have been a bicycle mechanic all these years, so big power tools? I don't have them. Ten different bottom bracket tools? I've got those. You get the picture. 

But I did used to work on cars at a garage and I did have to do some flat repairs out in the field on those LLV mail trucks. So this isn't completely foreign to me. I got the tire plug skills too, so I'm covered there. 

Three hours later...... (Apologies to Sponge Bob)

...and after.

So.....bummer. But maybe a blessing in disguise as the heat affected temperature "real feel" (sorry Accuweather!) was over 100 degrees and by the time I was finished wrasslin' that wheel I was tuckered out. That kind of high-humidity, high-temperature combination acts like a vacuum on your energy. Well.....for me it does, anyway.

Looking back, I wasn't probably going to be doing well after trying to come back in the mid-afternoon with a slight tailwind. No cooling effects and big hills are not a good combo in 100% Sun and atmospheric conditions like we had Friday. So, maybe I was spared the troubles by this errant nail. 

And the bike got a handle bar change I was wanting to make anyway. So, that was another great result out of all of that. Plus, yes.....I made my wife very happy. She took me out for dinner that night. And that was great too. That wouldn't have happened otherwise. 

Now the weather has broken and we're back to our regularly scheduled Summertime heat and lower humidity. Not that beastly stuff we had going on most of last week! Maybe.....just maybe I can sneak in that long ride after all.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: The Aftermath Of The 10th One

I modified an early Jeff Kerkove GTDRI header for the 2016 ride.
 "The GTDRI Stories" is a series telling the history, untold tales, and showing the sights from the run of Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals. This series will run on Sundays. Thanks for reading!

The days after the 2015 GTDRI weren't what I was expecting them to be. First off, I did not get that feeling of having overcome the adversity of the previous year. It was a ride. I did it. That was a bit of a letdown. Secondly, I was right back at it with a Geezer Ride, getting ready for Gravel Worlds, and work plus reviewing stuff and writing. Trans Iowa was announced again. Registration and recon needed to happen. My feet were swept away downstream before I had any time to reflect on what had just happened at the GTDRI. 

I did finally realize that we were done with ten of these rides now! Wow! What a decade of gravel grinding! And what we were doing back then was now well on its way to becoming mainstream, if it wasn't that already. It certainly wasn't anything new, yet mainstream cycling media, who had been dismissive of gravel events not just five or six years prior, were now ballyhooing it as the latest, greatest thing in cycling. 

From the 2008 GTDRI

Ten years of Trans Iowa and now ten years of the GTDRI. How long would I keep doing this stuff? In some ways, I thought what I was doing was irrelevant to what was then the current gravel scene. What was happening then, and is still going on, is the corporatization and marketing of "Gravel™" to make money. For many of us who were there ten years before, it was never about the money.

The other thing that was becoming apparent was that former Pro road riders and those "not quite good enough" for the top tier of Pro road racing were infiltrating the bigger gravel events. I remember that I was tabbed to be a part of the 10th running of the DK200 in 2015 where the DK200 put me on a trading card. But that wasn't all. They actually had all the guys and gals on those trading cards stand in a storefront for an hour in case anyone wanted an autograph. Well, all the semi-Pro and Pro male riders ditched out after about 20 minutes. The attitudes they had about the thing were pretty poor, and to me, it was a manifestation of what a lot of the gravel pioneers were afraid of all along. That being that the Pro, semi-Pro riders, and the money they brought, would ruin everything.

But what I did not see coming was that a groundswell of new riders were coming into the sport that weren't caring about racing or making money. They just wanted to have fun, and those people are the ones that are responsible for the current popularity of gravel group rides and events that are more about fun and adventure. 

This would be manifested in the Geezer Rides I was putting on and in the upcoming GTDRI's that will close out this series. There would be four more years of GTDRI's, at least in terms of public ones. Of course, you can probably guess why that was now!

Next: The Long Route Was Chosen

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Fat Tires On Gravel: From Krampus To Gryphon

 The Experimental Phase - Part 2

 Continuing on with this series concerning my thoughts and experiences with 29+ tires and gravel, today I am going to tell the story behind the other one of two ideas I had to mimic the Mukluk/29+ idea I had seen work so well at Odin's Revenge in 2014. You can go back to read the previous post here

While "B+" was appearing on the scene, and while I was messing with that, I still had this burning idea for the 29+ Mukluk idea I had seen at Odin's Revenge as it was ridden by Mike Johnson. One of the things I learned about Mike's set up was that he had to have a part made to accommodate the larger diameter of the 29+ wheel since that was larger than a 26" X 4.0" tire, which is what the Ti Mukluk was designed for. 

Stuffing the 29+ tires mounted on Velocity Dually's into a first generation Ti Mukluk would not work. The rear tire interfered with the "brake brace" across the seat stays above the tire. So, Mike contacted a friend of his, a fellow Trans Iowa rider and winner of T.I.v7, Dennis Grelk, to machine him some new swinging drop out plates. Dennis obliged him, but figured that if he was going to do one set, he may as well do three. 

By the time I came around two sets had been spoken for and I got my mitts on the third set. As far as I am aware, those were the only "DG Dropouts" ever produced for the Ti Mukluks. While it would have been awesome to have had these be through axle, that wasn't yet a thing when Dennis made these, so they all were quick release style. Dennis essentially had to engineer these bits to be longer and allow the proper clearance at that pesky frame brace to make it all be safe to ride. This raised the bottom bracket just a touch, but not much. That comes into play into the story later.

The 29+ wheel in stock Alternator drop outs set all the way back.

The arrow pointing to the DG Dropout which allowed the 29" wheel to have about an 1 1/2" of clearance at the brake bridge.

That was a critical piece which I needed to have to make this 29+/Muluk idea work. I ended up calling this by Mike's name for his set up: The Muktruk. This was perfect since the idea was really manifested as being worthwhile at a mucky, wet gravel event. 

By the time I got around to doing this idea in 2014, Salsa Cycles had produced a new hubset for fat bikes which required a 150mm, front brake standard fork. Previously the Mukluks had held on to the vestiges of the Pugsley's design for the front fork which utilized a 135mm spaced rear brake standard caliper. So, I had to buy a new fork to use with my new hubs which were purple, of course! 

A set of black anodized Velocity Dually rims were sourced and I built up the wheels, set the Knard tires up on there, and along with the drop outs I had from Dennis, I was able to finally put the MukTruk together in August of 2014.

The MukTruk in all its glory.

I wanted to like this set up. I really, really wanted to. But in the end, that jacked up bottom bracket height was just too much for me to deal with, and the bike just didn't feel right to me anymore. So, one thing led to another, and by October of 2014 I had sold the wheel set I built, sold the tires, and converted the bike back to a fat bike while retaining the DG Drop outs to allow for fatter rubber than I could have put in this bike before. 

So I ended up here. This is how I kept the bike until I sold it several years ago.

29+ was still on my radar. I still had the itch to get a bike with drop bars and a proper geometry for gravel that could be a bikepacking bike or a severe conditions bike. But back in 2014, that didn't exist yet. There were bikes that stoked my fires though. Two of which I actually got the chance to ride in 2014 and both used 29 X 3.0" tires. 

A Borealis fat bike conversion with 29+
MG's 29+ super-rare Singular Rooster with 29+ wheels.

The Borealis fat bike conversion I rode in the Fall of 2014 was revelatory. The geometry was 100% better than the MukTruk's. The bike was a fantastic MTB rig and I got to ride it pretty solidly for over a month before I had to send it back. This was a review bike for the now defunct "Twentynine Inches" site. 

Then I got to test ride Matt Gersib's rare Singular Rooster 29+ bike. I doubt that there are more than a few of these Singular models out there, and it was a blast to get to ride Matt's. (He still has it, by the way) This was another great example to me that a proper 29+ bike could happen. 

And you might be thinking "What about the Deadwood/Fargo with 29+?"

Close, but not quite. The 2016 Salsa Cycles Deadwood.

Salsa Cycles took some inspirations from.....somewhere. I wouldn't claim that I, or Mike Johnson, or maybe some others, had anything to do with what Salsa Cycles came up with, but they were certainly watching what was going on with us gravel/MTB/bikepacker/fat bikers out there. At any rate, in the Summer of 2015, Salsa dropped a bombshell in their Deadwood, a bike that clearly came from the Fargo and which was stuffed with 29+ wheels and covered in a fantastic copper-colored paint scheme. 

I got to see one close up, and well..... There wasn't a whole lot of tire clearance. The geometry of the bike was pointing toward a pretty tall bottom bracket, and after having seen what some folks did with Deadwoods, namely put on much smaller diameter wheels with much skinnier tires, I was validated in those suspicions. The Fargo with the claim of multiple sized wheel capabilities came out next, but stories of minimal clearances with 29+ and high bottom brackets kept me at bay. This was not "that bike" that I was looking for either. Close, but not quite. 

Meanwhile, in 2015, I struck upon a pretty good set up. Driven by injury and a desire to try the fat tires on gravel, a bike emerged from my stable and made 2015 one of my best gravel riding seasons ever. 

Next: A Brief Look At The Fat Fargo 

Friday, July 28, 2023

Friday News And Views

MicroShift "Sword" (Image courtesy of MicroShift)
MicroShift Appeals To Techno-Grouches Out There:

 MicroShift could be said to be that company that does the things that neither SRAM nor Shimano are interested in doing. For years now the company has been best known as the "alt" gear company that does those oddball bar end shifters, 8/9/10 speed derailleurs, cassettes, and now, a gravel group set. Of course they did a gravel group. 

But hold on! They did the "microshift" thing here as well and made the stuff ten speed in 1X or 2X which can be converted from 1X to 2X and back again, with a parts switch or two. Oh! And this is decidedly mechanical. No weird electronics or hydraulic fluids here!

Looking though their site, I find many of their features for this group, named "Sword", by the way, as being very "Shimano-esque". The textured hoods (GRX), the high-pivot brake levers (again - GRX), and the crank set bolt pattern, (very Shimano looking) Makes one wonder.... 

Even their front derailleur cable adjuster looks like a direct copy of Shimano's. Of course, we all know they are not copying SRAM here with anything front derailleur related! Ha ha! It's almost as if MicroShift is the secret "backwards Skunk Works" division of Shimano. But I have no clue what is really going on with the company. It's just that their stuff has a very heavy Shimano vibe. 

Ten speed...... Okay, other than tickling the retro-grouch's fancy, I am a bit in wonderment as to why they chose that format to go after. My inclination would have been that 11 speed is that level at which current riders are at where they are maybe saying, "Why do we need 12 speeds anyway?"The question about 11 speed was answered a decade ago, so going backward to 10 speeds? Okay then....

The Velo Vetta Monarch aero shoe. (Image courtesy of Velo Vetta)

Now Your Shoes Can Be Truly Aero:

It used to be that throwing on an aero-bootie cover on your shoes was enough for those times where you were time-trialing or doing a triathlon. Well, now there are areo-shoes so your bootie thingies are now out of fashion. (I guess)

Yep! These shoes are from a company called Velo Vetta and retail for about 400 bucks. The design moves the BOA type closure dial to the back end of the shoe and that bit is then fared into the shoe, kind of like a boat tail. The uppers then can be more sleek and smooth. 

I'll be waiting for the gravel version. (I'm only half joking)

California Proposes Law To License eBike Riders:

In an effort to reduce and prevent HPC/eBike deaths and injuries amongst minors, California law may soon prevent anyone under the age of 12 years to operate an electrically assisted bike and would put in place a licensing procedure for anyone using a HPC/eBike who already was not a licensed motor vehicle operator in the state. (Story here)

Comments: I've stated for years that electric motors and bicycles would eventually lead to a similar situation which moped operators found themselves in back in the 1980's. 

In those days there were no licensing requirements to operate a moped and they went about the same speeds as a Class 3 electric bicycle. Eventually enough of the youth, who were the primary users of said vehicles, were injured or killed that laws came into effect, essentially classing those motor pedelecs with motorcycles. They were subject to the same laws and licensing requirements, and then, well.....moped ceased to be a thing in the USA. 

We are on the same trajectory regarding electrically assisted bicycles and also with UTV's, which are drawing scrutiny for similar reasons in rural areas. Eventually both will be required to be licensed, insured, and classes will be required, just as with any motorized vehicle, to gain the privilege of using one of these things. 

Will that "kill" the market for those vehicles? Not likely. But it will prevent many from engaging in operations of those vehicles.

Fizik Debuts Shoe With Late 80's Vibe:

The new Vento Ferox Carbon shoe from fizik is probably the shoe Don Johnson would have worn had he ridden a bicycle on "Miami Vice" . This color scheme is totally 80's with the grid pattern, the pastel color palette, and grey soles. Honestly, I think I've worked on a few Huffys with this same color scheme and it makes me feel a bit annoyed! 

They paid attention to detail with this scheme though, I'll grant them that. Look at the toe cleat plugs. They are the same sickly-aqua/greenish-blue that the accents on the uppers are. Also - These are a perfect shoe for my pink BMC MCD bike. If they weren't 300+ bucks, and if I already didn't have like six pairs of really nice cycling shoes, I might get them just for that reason alone.

Salsa Cycles' Marketing Snafu Reveals New Name For Fat Bike:

Embargoes on information are commonplace in the bicycle business. I think I'm sitting on info for at least three embargoes right at the moment. It would have been four embargoes except for a mistake made by someone in Salsa Cycles marketing department.

Sometime mid-morning yesterday, I received an email from a reader here that was very strange. The email he forwarded me, that is, was strange. It was a typical embargoed information email I usually see from Salsa Cyles, except that the reader who sent it to me was a friend, not in the media. 


So, there was a bit of time which passed, as in a few hours, and then I got the email my friend got. THEN even more hours passed and another email lands in my inbox from an actual person, apologizing for the snafu, and still insisting the embargo be adhered to. Umm..... The cat's been outta the bag for half a day now. Right?

Anyway, another email went out to consumers explaining the mess and which told them briefly that there would be news about Beargrease and Heyday! (Yes, the exclamation point is part of the rebrand) Anyway, the whole thing is goofy now and well...... It's not as though these bikes are anything "new", it's paint changes, some spec news, and a new name for an old model. Which the original email consumers weren't supposed to get - but did - details specifically. (Hint: That bike in the image sent to consumers is not a Mukluk, even though it may look like one.) I'll have more details next week in this space.....

That's it for this week! Have a great weekend and ride those bicycles!

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Gravel History With Guitar Ted: The "One Speed Open"

 Many of you dear readers are aware that my last event which I promoted was the C.O.G. 100, a single speed only, 100 mile event on gravel. At the time that we were putting this on, (N.Y. Roll and I), I thought we might have been the only ones to do such an oddball thing. But as it is with many things, I have forgotten more than I remember. 

Case in point: We did a big rearrangement in the G-Ted household recently where furniture that hadn't been moved in over a decade got moved. I know.....the horrors! Dust bunnies, scraps of paper, petrified bits of.....what?!! I won't go into further details. I think you get the picture here. 

One of the things moved was a bookcase that I used to stash things relating to gravel events which were sent to me back in the day. See, I was once the only person that seemingly cared to come up with a gravel race calendar, so sometimes event promoters would send me a trinket, a poster, or something to show their appreciation of my work. Those were nice gestures, and so I wanted to honor that by saving the stuff which had been sent over. Most of this was in the form of posters. 

Well, Mrs. Guitar Ted made a discovery of a handmade poster, a print, which was from a race in Fort Collins, Colorado called the "One Speed Open", or "OSO" for short. The event ran from 2008 - 2012, near as I can tell.

Amazingly, the event blogsite is still up. You can check it out HERE. But what I wanted to point out is a bit of the description for the event from that blog page. 

"The OxSxOx has a different route every year, mostly gravel... as much of it as can be found for a good, fun loop. No one knows this route until maps are distributed during registration.

 For those not familiar with this kinda riding out on County roads:

 You will find not only gravel but also nice hardpacked sections as well as sandy spots and washboards at times.
Hills... it may not look like it when driving a car through but, they're there; not very steep, however,these are sustained, gradual climbs.

Equipment: The ideal tire for this will be one with some bite and volume to it. Cross tires from 32 to 40c are just about ideal depending on your weight and style of riding. I'm sporting Maxxis Razes in 35 and weight 120...for a hint.

A 'different route every year", mostly gravel, no one knows the route until maps are distributed. (MAPS!!) Hmm...... I like the sounds of all of that, but then again, I would. Wouldn't I? Yep, and that's all I have to say about THAT. 

I do recall searching for any new news on this event after 2012 so I could update the calendar, but after a few years I gave up on them. And then that whole Idea must have sat in the back of my brain waiting to emerge as the C.O.G. in 2018. And it was a great idea, but I forgot the OSO and its influence on my decision to help put on the single speed only century. 

Well, now I hope I have rectified that a bit. It's never too late, they say.....

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

GPS Take 3: Wahoo Elemnt ROAM - Part 5

 Okay, I have a couple of things to share now about this GPS computer. I've been putting up updates here and there and the last one I posted was HERE. Also, in case you haven't figured it out, I received this GPS computer at no charge to test and review. 

The ride I just did on Sunday was a test of the Elemnt ROAM's ability to navigate me by prompts without being tethered to a phone using a GPS track I made for a loop through Southern Black Hawk County.  So, how did things go? This post will let you know....

First off, I was able to get things up and running by finding my route in the computer and bringing that up to ride by. The route was made by downloading a GPS file from one of my GPS computers, (may have been the old Lezyne, I cannot remember), into Ride With GPS, and then that was synced to the Wahoo unit.  This may be an important factor regarding what happened on this ride. 

The first section of my ride comes from my house and through a densely paved and alley way area of Waterloo, Iowa. there are a LOT of choices to go by, so if the GPS track was goofy at all, I could see that happening here, but thankfully the Wahoo cruised through this test with flying colors. 

The Elemnt ROAM had a bit of a hiccup on a bike path intersection here.

The first check came when I had a "Y" corner on a bike path. Going RIGHT would take me to the at-grade crossing of 18th Street, a very busy road, to get across to the 18th Street Bridge bike path. The LEFT choice takes you under the bridge, THEN right and LEFT, up a steep bit, RIGHT again, and RIGHT again, to the bridge. 

The above cue was confusing as my first choice would have led me astray had it been to the RIGHT as I would have ended up on the at-grade crossing. No bueno. But I get it. That's a tough section. 

The data dropped out here in Evansdale and yet the track was there. (Grey line)

The next weird thing happened in Evansdale when the GPS just stopped navigating me at all. I traveled about a half mile with no guidance, but the track was still showing up as a light grey colored line. Again, not good.

The thing finally came back on once I crossed the Cedar River, shown on the screen there.

I crossed the river and hey! There is the guidance again!

I liked the "cues" that would show up in these green boxes at times.

So, the unit does have a few nice things going on. Distance to the next cue. Seems pretty spot-on, that is until it starts counting down the feet to the cue, which is WAY off! I saw anything from 40ft on up to 100ft off for that. But the alarms are there, I have plenty of time to ascertain where to turn, and in a cool feature of this computer, the LED lights across the top stream toward the direction you are to turn to. That could be handy at night or in low-light conditions, but for me it was easier to see this cue to turn at a glance. 

See that little "Z" shaped squiggle in the track? Yeah, about that...

 Then I was on my way and everything was going fine with the exception of the feet to turn numbers which were comically way off. Then I was seeing a cue that was telling me to turn in 4 miles, which I inherently knew was incorrect because I know these roads so well. What the heck was going on?

Well, the unit insisted that I make the right hand turn on Kimball Avenue, a paved road I would never use, and when I did, almost immediately it flashed a weird diagonal trace back to Quarry Road, then it flipped to a reroute. At the time, I figured it was a flaw in the GPS track, and I've experienced this because I've done a ton of work using GPS tracks and sometimes the reference points drop data at intersections in oddball ways like that. I cannot count the times that sort of thing has screwed up my routes. 

Well, after looking at the track at home, I saw what happened and sure enough, it was a flaw in the GPS track. Great! 

Here the track is perfect, but the unit couldn't figure it out.

Interesting. I had been on Ansborough at this point for a quarter of a mile already.

So, then the Elemnt ROAM got screwed up as I turned from Quarry Road onto Ansborough. The initial prompt was good, but then the unit went immediately to what you see on the screen above and was telling me to turn again when the track clearly shows that I shouldn't. And I couldn't turn Left anyway. The road is dead straight here.

This happened three times going up Ansborough and then the GPS got so confusing that I just shut it off. The rest of the ride was a lot more fun, by the way. 

Conclusions: Okay, had I not known these roads I would have been lost in Evansdale, not to mention the snafu at Kimball Avenue. That's not acceptable to me. As it stands, the navigation is untrustworthy. 

So, was it a bad GPS file? Is this a Ride With GPS issue? Am I a dunce that doesn't know how to run a GPS computer? All are possibilities at this point. All I can do is try again with a new loop this time that I will carefully craft in Ride With GPS and then upload into the unit. Then we will try again. 

Could wildfire smoke have the effects some might suggest? Well, my iPhone works great in these conditions, and the smoke index was pretty low Sunday here. So, no I am not buying that excuse anymore.

By the way, I could write cues up by hand faster, but none of you want to read or hear that. So, onward with the GPS experiment. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

More Enduro Bearings Stuff

 Enduro Bearings sent over its Torqtite Bottom Bracket, Max Hit Head Set, and Direct Line Pulleys for test and review to Riding Gravel/Guitar Ted Productions at no charge. We are not being paid, nor bribed, for this review, and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout. 

Okay, so a while back I received a Max Hit bottom bracket which I installed on my Singular Cycles Gryphon Mk3. That's been going well for me and after some more communications with the PR company rep that is my contact for Enduro, they decided to provide me these three components at no charge to try out on the Twin Six Standard Rando. So, take that as you may. (Standard Disclaimer)

Okay, that's annoying, but this is 2023, and it's the way the gubmint wants things done now. Onward....

Bearings are important and yes, they really do make a difference. As a bicycle mechanic, you learn fairly quickly that a precise bearing system rolls/turns/pivots far more easily and with less unwanted movement than lower quality bearing systems. It isn't just about the ball bearings either. This has to extend to the races, the grease, and the precision to which those all are manufactured. A high quality bearing system costs more. A lot more, but a high quality bearing system will outlast cheaper options and give you a more efficient machine to ride. Who doesn't want more efficiency? Well, maybe single speeders, but other than those freaks..... HA! 

The Max Hit bottom bracket in this bike has made a very noticeable difference.

My experiences so far with the Max Hit bottom bracket have been very encouraging. But let's talk about the practicality of the Max Hit bottom bracket a minute. Keeping in mind that this bottom bracket costs one hundred and eighty bucks, which is pretty expensive. 

The "standard" I will measure against here is the lowly Shimano outboard bearing bottom bracket. You can pick up an XTR version, (Shimano's top of the line bearings) for around $40.00 these days. That's a heck of a lot less expensive than the Enduro Max Hit. I could go through 4 XTR bottom brackets before I spent the money for one Max Hit bottom bracket. So, I get it. If penny-pinching is the only thing you consider here, then you may as well move on from this review. 

Now, remember what I said about efficiency? It matters and it hurts your efforts to be using a less than efficient bottom bracket, or wheel bearings, or what have you. In my personal experience, great bearings are a lot easier to ride, and especially in terms of wheels, where I feel top quality bearings have a huge effect on how a bicycle rides and feels to pedal. (Speaking of pedals, the bearings matter there too.) But next to wheels, what components are spinning on a bicycle that bear more forces than a bottom bracket? I'd say there aren't any that compare. (Okay, maybe pedals!)  So, a really good bottom bracket makes as much sense, or more, to me as a great wheel bearing. Why wouldn't I want a really nice, free-spinning, precision made bottom bracket? 

The Torqtite bottom bracket.

So, there is a difference and the Max Hit bottom bracket pedals so smoothly that I did not realize that the standard Shimano bottom bracket I was using before was so "not very good". The Shimano one "rumbles" when pedaled hard, and that is inefficiency exemplified right there. It's amazing to feel how that affects your ride. I bet it is measurable with a power meter, actually. However; I'm not able to find out. I don't have access to anything that measures power. It would be fun to get a set of those power measuring pedals to see what, if any, differences there are to find. 

Now I also have these Direct Line pulleys which went into the Shimano GRX rear derailleur and that is a component choice which also can make an increase in efficiency for a cyclist. This has been known for decades, but what is new is that now many feel a larger diameter pulley is more efficient still. This is why my GRX lower pulley is larger than what we used to use back in the day. But really....derailleur pulleys that are more efficient? Yes, and there is data to prove this. One report I found is here. (Note: An Enduro model scored pretty highly in this test)

So, I feel that a rear derailleur pulley upgrade isn't maybe cost effective for many, but if you are looking to eek out the last bits of watt savings, well..... You could do worse than buying a new set of jockey wheels. 

The Direct Line pulleys are not cheap, but they do make a demonstrable difference in efficiency.

Finally, we have the Max Hit head set. This component is made entirely of 440C stainless steel. So, it is heavier than your box-stock, ubiquitous Cane Creek type head set. Surprisingly it isn't crazy expensive at about 120 bucks. That's right in there with many aftermarket head sets. 

I guess this one is a bit harder to justify though. I mean, for a little more you can accessorize your bike with an anodized head set, or you can buy the Cane Creek 40 series one for about 50 or 60 bucks and heck, it'll do fine. But for the longevity and durability factors, I can see the Enduro Max Hit one as being something worth checking out. This is a bit heavier head set, but for severe conditions/uses, this might then be a head set that you could get behind. 

It might be a bit tougher to make a case for this.

The stuff all went in correctly, easily, and there were no issues at all. The riding I did over the weekend proved that nothing should fail out of the gate, at least, and that I did my job correctly! 

Sometimes I have worried about non-stock derailleur pulleys not shifting well. A lot of folks may not realize it, but the derailleur jockey wheels are a major player in shifting precision. Get the pulley wrong, in any way, and shifting suffers. 

I will say that I had nothing to worry about there with the Enduro Direct Line pulleys as each shift was accomplished as I expected. Quickly and quietly, just as I have come to know from Shimano. So, that was nice to find out.

The Torqtite bottom bracket is a bit of a mystery as to what it is I am feeling here. At times I feel a vibration, but at times I do not. I wonder if the thread-together system that Enduro uses is so rigid that I am feeling something else through the bottom bracket and that this is not the bottom bracket bearings at all. I need more time on the bike to figure this out. But I will say that the typical Shimano "grumble", or shudder on hard pedaling, is gone. 

The head set did not come loose. Bonus! The bike steered well, and well, what else is there to say about a head set? 

So, there you have it....for the time being. I need to run this stuff for a good, long time, and when that time comes to an end, I'll be doing a final take on these things. Until then.....

Monday, July 24, 2023

Country Views: Wild Flowers

Escape Route: 5th St turns into 6th St. What?!!
Sunday was a chance for me to get a roll in so I did that with two goals in mind for the ride. One was to give a recently received set of Enduro components a whirl (more on that tomorrow) and to run the turn-by-turn directions on the Wahoo Elemnt ROAM, (more on that Wednesday)

It was fine and hot, with a touch of humidity, and barely any wind at all. Almost a "dog day" of Summer, but it wasn't quite to that level just yet. They say mid-week it should get there. Fun times people, fun times!

But I wasn't too worried about any of that on this ride. I got a move on at about a quarter to ten and made the Wahoo wake up to guide me on my "Southern Black Hawk County" route. It's about 30-ish, maybe 35 miles, depending upon how I do it. On the computer its listed at just shy of 35 miles. So, off I went. I won't say much about the computer here. You'll have to wait till Wednesday for that story.

They are still working on the dike on the way to Evansdale, but....

....there is a nice dirt work-around.

The skies looked hazy, but this wasn't bad wildfire smoke haze. Nope. Just a mild case this time. So, I was good to ride and I could not smell any smoke. In fact, the sky cleared up as the ride went on.So, that was nice. Now it was just a matter of getting out of Evansdale and out into the country.

A nice patch of chicory here on Foulk Road.

It is very dusty and dry again out in the country.

I finally got to the gravel and it was dusty! At one point I had to sit up for a bit to let the dust settle after a car passed me by. I could not see anything and with little to no wind, that dust just hung in the air for a long while. After the car got about a quarter mile up the road I could begin to see the road clearer than before. 

The other thing about this ride that became very evident once I reached gravel was that the Qeen Anne's Lace and Chicory was running riot now in the ditches. In some places it was nearly as tall as myself on the bike. 

Seeing elevations above 1000 feet in this area is not common. I ran across a hill later that was over 1100 ft!

You can see that the skies cleared up a bit here.

I didn't plan this, but since I was feeling pretty good on the bike, I did not stop to rest. I only got off briefly for a quick nature break and then at the end so I could text Mrs. Guitar Ted my ETA at the G-Ted Headquarters so she could coordinate the lunchtime festivities. Otherwise I rode solid for the entire loop, minus traffic stops. 

Chicory, Queen Anne's Lace, and Red Clover here in this ditch.

The flowers along Quarry Road are awesome right now.

Since I was pushing the pace kind of hard, I ended up feeling it in the legs towards the end of the ride, but this was the best I'd felt on the bike in a long while. It was fun, so I tried to savor every last bit that I could. 

The only nit I had was that the Easton handle bar I was running had little to no flare and my left arm/hand/shoulder weren't real happy about that. So, that'll be coming off the Twin Six soon and something more flared will be going back on there. 

I spied this helicopter doing crop spraying off Ansborough Avenue.

The Standard Rando v2. It's a great bike.

Well, it was a fantastic day for a ride and I got in a good one. I was out for 2hrs 20 minutes, so not a bad speed for 30+ miles in the bag. I wasn't super keen on the outbound and inbound pavement, but that's the price I pay for riding from the home unit. 

hopefull I'll have a few more rides this good yet this year!

Sunday, July 23, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: The 10th One - Part 3

Off to the hardest hills of the day.
 "The GTDRI Stories" is a series telling the history, untold tales, and showing the sights from the run of Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals. This series will run on Sundays. Thanks for reading!

Now the day was hot and very humid. Not unlike the previous year, yet perhaps a touch hotter,if that was possible. The road went gently upward at first out of Elkader, but soon it was one steep hill after another until we reached pavement for a bit and relief from the gravel. Only the pavement reflected more heat than the gravel. 

Soon we were into my favorite part of this course, the two Level B sections of road, Imperial and Impala roads. There was shade and smooth dirt. While Imperial was a long climb, Impala Road started out as gravel, and that gravel bit just about had all of us undone. Working such grades in the hot Sun was taxing. Well, not for the entire group! Jeremy and a couple others bypassed this section, not wanting to be challenged by the rough beginnings of the dirt section of Impala Road. 

Ascending Imperial Road.

The roller-coaster ride on the gravel section of Imperial Road.

We rested just a bit before the entry to the dirt section of Impala Road. Then we descended onto the flat plain along the Turkey River. Coming out onto pavement again in Garber, we met back up with the others. Then a bit of respite in the A/C of the small convenience store at Elkport. 

Cooling off in the shade of the convenience store at Elkport.

Here we cross the bridge and enter into the big hills beyond it.

Big, long climbs awaited us with the last being the long, arduous climb of Fantail Road. Each pedal stroke a labor for me by this time. I was over-heated and tired. We were 80 miles into the ride and coming onto the end of the loop, but this was the hardest part and because of the way I had the loop clocked, it came at the worst time for us. The heat of the afternoon was at its zenith and our strength was at its ebb. 

Yard sale time. Note the height we were at by the background in the distance.

This is the view back down Fantail Road from the steepest part. Note the wheel tracks in the gravel.

Eventually I made it to the spot where, a year before, I had been struck by the drunk driver. I did not know how I would react when I saw the spot. Maybe it was the fact that I was drained of all energy by that point. Maybe I was numb to it. Either way, I came up upon the spot with no other desire or feeling other than that I wanted to rest. 

Tony and Jeremy were there ahead of me, reminiscing on the details of the incident. I watched casually but I was so drained that I couldn't really respond, nor did I want to. Soon we all got up and just rode away. 

I didn't get far before I needed to stop again. The heat was just too much. Martin was there and tried to help me out with some encouragement to eat and drink. I wasn't feeling it, but his positive attitude sure lifted my spirit a little bit. Enough that I could just pound out the final miles just to get the thing over with.

Lance Andre and his daughter descending the North road into Bixby State Preserve.
I made it to Strawberry Point and walked into the convenience store, relishing the cool air conditioned air inside. I plopped myself in a booth behind lance Andre and his wife and daughter. He was going back to get the car and pick them up, take them back to the campground, and get ready to head back to Dubuque where they lived. He asked if I wanted to sit and wait for him and if so, I could also hitch a ride back to the State Park where my truck was. 

I remember saying that would be great, and well, I must have made it home, but now I hardly remember anything about the day after the convenience store stop. I guess I had mentally shut down and that was the end of the 10th GTDRI for me. 

And I also don't recall saying goodbye to anyone else. It was as if everyone just vaporized at the end of that loop. I do know that a few rode out the entire course, another 8 miles past Strawberry Point. I considered myself a finisher, since I could have ridden in, but well.....why? I'd had more than enough riding that day. 

Next: The aftermath and thoughts on the 10th GTDRI.