Thursday, February 29, 2024

Review: Old Man Mountain Axle Pack: The Riding

 NOTE: Old Man Mountain sent over the Axle Pack kit, a fit kit, and through axle from the Robert Axle Project to Guitar Ted Productions for test and review. I am not being bribed, nor paid for this review and I always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

The Old Man Mountain Axle Pack was mounted a while back and with this wild and weird Winter I was off the bike it was installed on until recently. Hit this LINK for a look at the install, or read on further for my take on how the Axle Pack works with my riding and how I carry stuff. 

I chose the Noble Bikes GX5 carbon gravel racer as my test bike because it has no provisions for cargo or bottle cages on the fork. The Axle Pack allows me to carry a water bottle or a cargo cage on the fork now. I chose one of each. Why not?! 

For the riding test, I was curious as to whether or not the weight on the fork would adversely affect the handling of this light carbon gravel bike. I also purposefully used the different loads to see how an imbalance there might affect the handling. Finally, the question abut the front wheel removal with this rack on there needed to be answered, and I'll get to that in this review as well.

Rides were completed on various surfaces and terrain. I almost always kept a full load in both racks but I did also leave the cargo cage empty and used a full water bottle on one side as well. This will be a mid-term look at the Axle Pack and a final review will appear later this Spring. With that, let's get to the good stuff.

The Axle Pack is, first and foremost, essentially like having a fork built with Three-Pack bosses. At least functionally as you ride, it feels that way. You'd never know without looking that you have an add-on accessory rack. Bottle cages and cargo racks attach seamlessly, and even loaded the Axle Pack is rock-solid and steady on the bike. 

In terms of handling uneven loads and the effect of loads on the bike's handling, I saw no real issues there either. Yes, you will notice a little more inertia to steering inputs, but you most likely will adapt to this easily, as I did. After a few miles, it seems all normal. 

I did a steep descent with a need for very precise, controlled braking and also did not notice any detrimental effects to handling. Overall, this cargo carrier caused me no grief at all. Obviously, if you put a heavy enough load on the Axle Pack, it would begin to degrade handling, but most folks, hopefully, will have better sense than to put very heavy things on a fork that most likely was not rated to carry such a load. 

And furthermore; most racing gravel bikes don't make for great bikepacking bikes, but with Old Man Mountain's products, I suppose you could turn your race-rocket into an adventure bike of sorts if the need arose. 

The Axle Pack can be installed on many different bikes, obviously, but from a gravel riding standpoint, if we are limiting this to gravel bikes, the Axle Pack does come in handy for those events with long enough distances that you might require more water than your bike would normally carry, or gear that would make an over-night stay easier. 

There is one thing that is a bit of an annoyance with the Axle Pack and that is if you want to, or when you need to, remove the front wheel. Since the Axle Pack relies on the through axle, in this case, to attach the rails, you have to go through a couple more steps to get the wheel out. 

Remove three bolts to get a wheel out vs one.

There are the two attaching bolts that require a 4mm hex wrench and then you can get at the 6mm through axle bolt's hex pocket to remove the through axle and then the wheel comes out. You have to push aside the rails of the Axle Pack while doing this, and this also is another good reason not to put heavy cargo on the Axle Pack, unless you are okay with removing that cargo first. 

But besides this, there are no real negatives to using the Axle Pack that I have experienced. The wheel removal thing is a compromise for making your bike more versatile. I think it is worth the trade-off. 

Now as for temporary use of the Axle Pack, it may become a bit of a hassle if you go through a lot of those special Panduit cable ties because they are not cheap. Old Man Mountain does sell spares, so you always have those available, but this may be a hindrance to using the Axle Pack on and off for special occasions. My tendency would be to just leave it on there for extended periods of time, but not everyone will think like I do about this.

So Far... I think the Axle Pack is a well thought-out design that can make a bike without fork mounts a more versatile machine. Handling seems to be minimally affected in my case with the Axle Pack attached and with loads on it the stability of my bike was not adversely affected. 

There are a couple of compromises to the Axle Pack. Wheel removal being one. The special cable ties that are a bit hard to go through due to their expense, hindering, perhaps, off-and-on usage of the Axle Pack being the other. However; these are minor compromises in light of how effective the Axle Pack is and looking at how versatile this can make a bike. 

See the webpage for the Axle Pack HERE

Next up: A Long-Term Review.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Brown Season: Sometimes Things Just Work Out

Things look pretty sad at Harold Getty Lake
February and shirt sleeves and shorts are not things you associate together in Iowa. Mexico? South America? Maybe there you might be thinking that is a normal association, but not in the Mid-West. 

That said, I rode on the 26th and the 27th in shorts and a t-shirt. That just ain't right, in my opinion. Cool? sure, but it is rather concerning. That and the lack of moisture. I've thought we were in for a doozy of a year in terms of a drought last year, but this year came in and said, "Hold my beer....

Things could turn around this Spring, and I sure hope that they do, or all I will be writing about all year is "Brown Season". Okay....maybe "Dust Season", that might actually work better. Again, I sure hope that I am wrong, but as of now, things look pretty dire out there.

While this may look like a pile of dirt, it is actually melting snow underneath that duff.

I really did not feel like riding Tuesday at all. But I also could not live with myself and let this unprecedented weather pass without some sort of bicycle ride. Today it will struggle to get into the 30's, which, is about normal anyway for February, but Monday it was 74°F here and yesterday it was about 65°F before the winds came up around 2:00pm and the long slide downward overnight happened. We ended up being in the single digits!

Anyway, so I did not feel like riding, but I got kitted up anyway and headed over East thinking maybe I'd hit those B Roads over by Washburn. Maybe I'd feel better then and ride more gravel. I had time. I left the house by 8:30am. 

I had a special cargo in that dry bag attached to the OMM Axle Pack.

I decided to bring along a canister of coffee for a stop later on. I slid that into a dry bag and that attached to the cargo carrier which was attached to the Old Man Mountain Axle Pack. I figured on finding a bridge or somewhere suitable for a sit-down coffee break that morning.

The roads around here are already a mess with the bridges being repaired and replaced downtown. I was going to use the riverside bicycle trail, but I got shunted off onto an alley parallel to the Cedar River. Then I ended up on a street that led me to the Riverview Recreation Area which used to be a wild area called Mitchell Sand Pits. 

I was just fine with a ride around Harold Getty Lake and then heading back home. Plus there were lots of lakeside benches strewn along the shoreline that might make for a good coffee sipping spot. Or even better, that shelter house with picnic tables. So, I headed down the dike and onto the double-track path around the lake. 

Before there were Yeti's, there was the Thermos.

I knew that the shelter with picnic tables was located at the point where I would be leaving the lake. That was quite a ways around from where I was starting at. I was in no hurry to stop before then, but this certain bench near a fishing jetty called out to me somehow.  I stopped and sat down on a wobbly bench with my ancient but functional one-pint Thermos. It was relatively calm so the water was like glass. The sky was blue and there were a few clouds. The breeze was light. I found myself in a nice, peaceful state......

Does it really get any better than this?

I sat for, oh.....I don't know, a long time it was, for sure. It was great with very little to distract me and I meditated on a few things while I sipped my coffee in the Sunshine. Finally, I drained the last of it and was about to leave when suddenly to my right I saw movement on the lake.

Two ducks and a large, white swan (?) glide across Harold Getty Lake.

This large white bird was gliding across the surface of the water. At first I thought it was alone but then I noticed the two ducks in front of it. They made for a strange procession across the lake until the ducks disappeared and the white bird turned and headed back to the middle of the lake. 

I watched in silence and took a couple images. Then I decided it was time to head back to the house. On my way past the shelter, I realized why the bench by the jetty had attracted me. There were two pairs of men chatting away there and another cyclist. I would have found no peace had I went straight to the shelter for coffee. 

Right about this time I noticed something going on with my rear tire. A whomp-whomp-whomp! with every rear wheel revolution. Hmm...... I stopped to investigate it.....

My WTB Resolute developed a tread separation.

I noticed a bump in the tread and a distortion of the casing. Oh! This was bad! My tire casing and tread were separating and air was getting in between the casing and the tread, causing a bulge. This tire was about to blow up and when that happens? You're pretty much done. 

I had this very thing happen when I was down at the DK200 one year during a course pre-ride with my friend Tony and a few others. Between us all, I was able to boot the tire, put in a tube, and we taped the tire to the rim with black electrical tape! It worked long enough to get me home. This time I had no boot or tape, so if the Resolute failed, I would be walking. 

I managed to get about half way home at a snails pace, not wanting to risk a rear blow-out at any significant speed. Then I felt like the bulge was getting worse, so I dismounted, let out some air, and walked the remainder of the way home. 

Just think if I had decided I needed to go all the way out into the country and then have this happen? Things kind of have a way of working out for the best sometimes....

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Honeman Flyer Project: Update

Image courtesy of King Fabrications
This update on the Honeman Flyer is going to cover the potential build for the bike. If you are seeing this for the first time and don't know what this is about, the introduction can be found HERE

So, I have a back-stock of parts which is pretty crazy. Even I cannot remember what I have! So, it didn't come to me until Monday (yesterday) that I had a carbon crank for this bike. Anyway.....

As of now, I can go either with a silver based component look or I can go black. Within those colors I have options as well. It's dizzying with all the choices. But, I have come to a preliminary decision as of now. 

The goal is to build this up in a way which allows me to use mostly parts I already have on hand. Right now, where I am at with this, I think I can get away with only having to purchase a bottom bracket. Well, as far a major parts go, that is it. I did have to order a rear through axle. I also bought two new water bottle cages for it as well. I probably will have to buy the housings for the brakes also. I may even have to buy an extra long rear brake cable, but we'll see. Maybe not.... 

Otherwise things like a head set, brakes, rotors, handle bars, and a stem all are here to get going on the build. The wheels are all set up and ready now as well. If you missed the post on the wheels it can be seen HERE.

A pile of parts I am wading through to find the build for the Honeman Flyer.

I am pretty sure, at least as of this writing, that the theme will be black ano for the build. The bike has a lot of black all over with that crackle design to that paint job and I feel as though this calls for a black parts build. Plus the hubs are black on the wheel set as well. 

Factoring into this is that I have a black seat collar and a black head set, neither of which I have in silver. So a silver build would require more parts to be ordered. With that, here is a list for the parts. Keep in mind any of this could change once I get the frame and fork in.

  • Crank: SRAM Rival carbon with a 40T ring (Previously used on the Standard Rando v2 SS build)
  • Head set: Cane Creek 40
  • Stem: (Depends on fit)
  • Seat Post: Likely an FSA zero offset post I have, but I also have an old Tamer carbon post that might work with zero offset. 
  • Seat Collar: Salsa Cycles black ano
  • Brake Levers: Tektro RL's (I have ones in all black or black hoods with drilled silver levers)
  • Brake Calipers; TRP Spyre
  • Rotors: 6 Bolt SRAM
  • Bottom Bracket: Needs to be purchased.
  • Pedals: Shimano SPD
  • Saddle: WTB Volt
  • Chain; TBD
  • Bar Tape: Magenta MSD brand. (In image above)
  • Wheels: Paul Components WORD Disc hubs, black, laced to Velocity Blunt SS rims in black with half of the spokes silver, half black. 20T Shimano freewheel cog attached. 
  • Tires: Teravail Rutland 700 X 42m set up tubeless.
Image courtesy of Erik Mathy

Okay, I think that about covers everything. I may have missed a bauble here or there. But again, this all may change. I hope it doesn't because I have a very limited amount of time to get this together and test ride it. 

This was compounded by the time it took to let the paint cure, which was all of last week, and the frame and fork did not get shipped until yesterday. Coming from California to Iowa will take all the rest of this week. That means I won't probably get my grubby hands on the thing until maybe Friday, (that's the shipper's target date), but it could be Monday or Tuesday of next week, knowing how shipping usually goes. 

That means that I will have about nine days to spare before I leave for Mid-South. Everything had better go according to plan because if it does not, well...... 

It will go according to plan. Right? 

Stay tuned. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

Change In Plans

 And Some More Detail On "The Plan":

Things don't always turn out the way you think that they might. Everyone knows this. I thought I would be doing a few events in 2024, and I will still be doing a few, but just not the same few I thought would be the few. 

I's crazy

First off, the event I absolutely adore and have attended for years is one that I will not be attending this year. Conflicts with myself and another on the team have scuppered our plans to make the event. This will be the first year that the team has not appeared in the Gents Race in 13 years. That's a pretty good run. Nothing to sneeze at, and if we never go back, well, it was a good run. 

Have fun at the Gents Race if you go. I highly recommend this one.

Image courtesy of Erik Mathy.

The next event I will be attending is coming up very soon. That would be Mid-South. I've never been to this event, and I am excited to witness it first hand. I do have to credit several people for making this happen though. This was not on my radar even two months ago!

This all started with that idea for the Honeman Flyer single speed gravel bike based on a 1930's design. Erik Mathy, a photographer and cyclist out of San Francisco, California, pitched an idea to me that required my buying in, literally and figuratively, to participate in bringing the Honeman Flyer to life. Erik connected me with a local to him frame builder named Liam King of King Fabrications. Li agreed to take on the project, but there were some fits and starts to our communications, and at one point I just figured Li wasn't interested and that was that.

No bike, no Mid-South, and I would have had to have arranged for transportation, housing, get a deferral from Bobby to enter, yada, yada, yada

It was all looking insurmountable and I gave up on it by the end of 2023. Meanwhile, Erik thought about the project and realized that he hadn't heard anything about it for a while. Erik's stake in this was that he was going to write up a story and take imagery of the completed bike at Mid-South to pitch to magazines or websites, as he is a free-lance writer as well. He contacted me and when he heard my tale he said he'd get the ball rolling again on his end. As for my logistics issues, Erik said that I needed to contact Ben Witt who was planning on taking several folks with him to Mid-South again as he has done for a few years now. 

Well, Ben was beyond stoked about the entire "Plan", and so he detailed out the finer points for me which included lodging, transportation, and more. Okay, logistically things looked great. Now about getting this bike done, and then I needed to arrange to get the time off at the Collective. This was still not a done deal. 

With Erik's prompting of Li, things got hot on the bicycle front again and the frame and fork were in progress. I went to the Board meeting and got the time off. So.... Game on. As long as this bike turns out well "The Plan" put in place for me will be activated and well..... You'll get the full report afterward. 

The final event I am scheduling for 2024 is my appearance at the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies on May 29th, 2024 in Emporia, Kansas. 

The GCHoF board wants me to be a presenter, so I will be up on stage at some point doing "a thing" for the GCHoF. Can't say what that is now. Stay tuned on that.....

I can say that I will arrive in Emporia the afternoon of the 29th and be staying overnight. Oddly enough my room will be in the same facility where the first DK200's were run out of. I may or may not bring a bike. If I do it will be the Honeman Flyer so I can test it out on some terrain I know fairly well. 

And that is my plan for events in 2024. Again, I cannot take off willy-nilly and do weekend events since I work Saturdays and to boot, my son relies on The Truck With No Name now to get to his job. So, I really don't have much access to a vehicle anymore at this time and that doesn't look to change for a while.

Stay tuned for further updates as the become necessary. You know how things can change......

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Two Things

Image from SRAM promo video
SRAM's New Maven Brakes:

Checked the calendar and yes - it is not April 1st! SRAM really did just make a new brake with mineral oil as the fluid instead of DOT brake fluid. (To be fair, they had an obscure brake ahead of this that was also mineral oil based)

Maven, the new design from SRAM for their DH, Enduro, and Trail categories, is a four piston brake with a huge, chunky looking caliper and a claim of a 50% increase in power over their previous Code R brakes. 

Obviously the main talking point will undoubtedly be that SRAM has used a Maxima made mineral oil for this brake and have forsaken DOT fluid. (Older models are still offered in DOT fluid, by the way) This fluid is very Jello green in color and is claimed to be the only mineral oil that will work with these brakes due to a special proprietary piston seal material SRAM is using on the Maven brakes. 

SRAM's promotions for this brake seems to poke a finger at Shimano with verbiage to the effect that "heat isn't a bad thing" for brakes. (Shimano has for years used "Ice Tech" and other cold-type nomenclature for their brake systems) Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't know that Shimano ever said "heat was bad for brakes". They wanted to reduce heat and control it, but they were never trying to get rid of all heat. That is silly. Maybe SRAM was poking fun at another brand's messaging. I don't know. 

SRAM is saying that they have an optimal temperature range for this brake. They kind of dance around how cold weather affects these brakes, and they infer that you'll need to get these brakes hot, or they won't be what they are supposed to be. How that translates to rides that have longer intervals off the brakes is a question unanswered as of now. 

The Maven comes in an Ultimate, Silver, and Bronze level. The Ultimate and Silver brakes are fully-featured, the difference is that the Ultimate has titanium hardware in the caliper body.  The Bronze level drops the bite adjustment feature, but otherwise is similar. Prices are Ultimate - $300.00/brake, Silver - $265.00/brake, and Bronze - $185.00/brake. 

Comments: Ever since SRAM has made hydraulic brakes, mechanics have groused about their bleeding procedures and laughed at their various brake fails in terms of designs. But above all, mechanics hated working with DOT fluid. The move to mineral oil will be welcomed in that sense. However; as anyone with any kind of bike shop experience would tell you, it is no surprise that the mineral oil is proprietary and that the equipment to service these brakes will all have to be purchased by shops for their mechanics. That's been the same since SRAM has made brakes, pretty much. Always with something else you HAD to buy to work on their latest brake. 

But one thing that has not changed, apparently, is how difficult it is to bleed these and set them up initially. That's been a SRAM hallmark for their hydraulic brakes since forever. 

But consumers will likely dig these brakes and they will be spec'ed on TONS of new mountain bikes, (as long as SRAM doesn't get a recall ding with this new brake). Oh! And E-MTB's will definitely see this brake spec often as well. Hope SRAM has a hit on their hands here because I would love to see them ditch DOT fluid for their entire hydraulic brake line up. 

Honeman Flyer Update:

My front wheel to match my rear wheel has landed at G-Ted Headquarters for the new single speed gravel bike build. This might just be the oddest wheel set I have as it was built by two different people nearly two years apart from each other.

See, back in 2020, parts were hard to come by as the pandemic made cycling ultra-popular. I had one Velocity USA Blunt SS, and that was all we could get. I wanted to score a new Paul Components WORD Disc hub with a 12mm through axle though, but they weren't available. So I put one on back order. Then, finally, in January of 2022, I got an email asking if I still wanted the hub, and I did, so by March of 2022, two years ago,  I built a rear wheel for my Twin Six Standard Rando v2. 

I kludged a front wheel out of the original front wheel that came with my Nobel GX5 bike. It looked similar enough that it was hard to notice the difference, and I probably would have kept things that way for a long, long time, but then....

I got that GRX Limited Edition group set and used it on the Standard Rando v2. That sent the single speed, mismatched wheel set off in the corner of the G-Ted Lab. When the chance to get the Honeman Flyer bike became a reality, that old rear was pegged for the project, but now I felt I may as well finally get the front wheel to match.

Signed by the builder.

I contacted my friend and wheel-building professional, Ben Witt of Heath Creek Cycles, to consult him on a possible front wheel build to match the older Paul rear. Ben mentioned that he could order me the parts and I could build it, but he also offered me the option of having him build it up. 

The thought of having my friend build up my front wheel was appealing to me. It will allow me to have a bit of Ben along with me on every ride of that bike. But it is odd to think that the complete, matched wheel set has taken this long to accomplish and was done by two different wheel builders. 

And we even managed to get the "Guitar Ted Special" spoke pattern down tight. Alternating sides with black and silver spokes with each color spoke featuring an opposite colored nipple in brass. I was stoked that Ben would accommodate me in that way. 

 So, another piece of the puzzle has landed. I think I have a crankset I can use, at least two options would look okay here. I have a head set. I have brakes. I have the levers. I have seat posts and stems. I probably will go with a Luxy Bar. I have one in silver. So, yeah.... I have a bunch of what I need to build the bike up once the frame and fork arrive. 

The waiting game begins......

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Guitar Ted Lube-Off: Flowerpower Wax Intro

Wax Lubricant Claims 4 Season Effectiveness:

 NOTICE: The Guitar Ted 'Lube-Off' is a comparison of different lubrication products for bicycle chains that is undertaken in 'real world' conditions in a set way. Then I compare and contrast the results with past 'Lube-Off' products to see "which one is best for me". This is done for entertainment purposes and the reader should apply their own reasoning and discernment while reading my 'Lube-Off' entries. What works for me may not work for you at all. None of the companies represented in this Lube-Off have any knowledge of this review, nor are they sponsoring me at all.

Okay, so here we go with another Guitar Ted Lube-Off! This time the new lubricant is Effetto Mariposa's "Flowerpower Wax". This is a drip wax chain lube that is supposedly akin to the old-fashioned melt chain wax in as far as how it will affect your chain. The main benefit of Flowerpower, as is the case with other lubricants of this ilk, is that you do not have to remove the chain to lubricate it. 

Well.....kind of

You should degrease your chain completely before applying this, or any, chain lubricant, especially the first time you use it. So, to best do that degreasing, you should remove the chain. Yes, after this the chain removal does not have to happen, that is unless you need another deep cleaning of the chain. In my case, I doubt that will be necessary as we are looking at mostly dry gravel road usage here. The point is, you should remove the chain for degreasing. That is, if you want the best possible results. You don't have to do this. Thus my "kind of" statement above. 

The Noble GX5 will get the new lubricant this time out.

Impressions: I ordered and paid for this direct from Effetto Mariposa, so it was shipped from Switzerland and delivery took about a week. With taxes and all it ended up costing $33.00USD for a 100ml size sample. Note that the web site claims this costs $21.00.  This compares with the 120ml bottle of SILCA Super-Secret lube at $25.00USD

I don't know what it is, but I've noticed lately that several things I have received of late in terms of new consumer products have arrived with dismal, or no directions. It seems as though that no paper instructions, or as in the case with this Flowerpower lube, no directions at all, with the product is now "normal". Effetto Mariposa has directions buried in their FAQ which should come with the product, in my opinion. Note: There is also a somewhat informative application video on the site, but it gives you no indication for when to reapply this lubricant. I find this to be unacceptable, but maybe I'm just an old man yelling at the sky here. 

Image courtesy of King Fabrications' social media.
The lubricant in the Flowerpower bottle is very white in color and has a very faint smell, neither pleasant or unpleasant. It seems to have a thicker viscosity than Super-Secret lube does, and it felt waxy on my finger. This tracks with what Effetto Mariposa claims as they claim the wax content is over 50% for the lube. 

The Test Bikes: I'm probably also going to apply this on the chain that I use for the new Honeman Flyer which is incoming from King Fabrications any day now. That will be a single speed application, despite the appearance of a derailleur hangar in the image there. 

I have the Super-Secret lube on the BMC MCD and on the Twin Six Standard Rando. DuMonde Tech is currently on the Raleigh Tamland Two and on my Pofahl Signature single speed.  

Test Procedure: The bikes will all be ridden throughout this season until Fall when the test will end. I will have periodic updates throughout the Spring and Summer. Testing will be for shifting performance, (unless it is a single speed bike), lubricant lifespan before reapplication is necessary, and I'll be looking to see if the lubricants are effective at keeping the drive train free from gunk and dust build-up. 

In the case of these wax based lubricants, like the Super-Secret and Flowerpower lubes, the idea is that you will have to wipe down the chain from time to time, essentially "dusting" it off. DuMonde Tech doesn't require this, by the way, so that will have to be accounted for as we go along. 

So Far... Well, this is a kind of pricey lube and I don't like the lack of any instructions with the product. So as far as presentation and first impressions go, this has been a disappointing experience so far. But....That will all be in the rear view mirror soon enough, once I start riding with the stuff. The next update should come soon with a look at the application process and first ride impressions. 

Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions

Friday, February 23, 2024

Friday News And Views

 Welcome to an "electrifying" version of the FN&V!

Congress debating New E-Bike Battery Regs:

A news story this week concerning the dangers of lithium-ion battery fires and laws for regulation of those batteries was noted in several social media posts this week. A link to an excellent story on this comes from which you can read HERE.

Apparently there has been an over 1000% increase in battery related fires in New York City since 2019. That and the rate of deaths due to these fires has prompted New York City and the State of New York to take some rather dramatic actions in the form of laws limiting e-bikes and battery refurbishing, a main source of concern in New York City.

But this is gaining nationwide notice as fires related to e-bike batteries becomes more prevalent across the nation. The fact that Congress is getting involved shows that this has become a serious issue for people outside of NYC as well.

Comments: With a flood of cheap e-bikes and electrified scooters available at cheap prices from China, many of which have known quality and safety issues, it seems that it is about time for some regulation. Combined with lawsuits regarding the safety of e-bikes and their construction and design which are ongoing, I would expect that the reins will be tightened on these more budget, entry-level items in the future. 

What the ultimately looks like is anyone's guess now. But if the Feds get the low-end electrified market regulated that will probably drive up prices and make these bicycles even more expensive, maybe even in line with mainstream brand offerings. And that will pretty much make electrified bikes the province of fewer and fewer people due to the high prices.   

Image courtesy of Cannondale

Cannondale Debuts New Moterra SL Electric MTB:

Boasting the most power, longer battery life, and all wrapped up in the lightest weight package than any other current electrified MTB, Cannondale showed off its latest effort on Tuesday of this week. 

Dubbed "Moterra SL", the bike comes in three versions with a range-topping LAB71 series Moterra SL checking in at $14,00.00. The Moterra SL 2, shown here in read, is half the price and the entry into the Moterra range. There is also a Moterra SL 1 at $8700.00. 

Comments: So.....what exactly is "lightweight" for a bike like this? Apparently 43lbs is "light". Okay then.... Let's hope that battery lasts for the entire ride because pedaling 43lbs of MTB without assist would be no fun. Again with the super-expensive pricing. I really have a hard time with electric MTB's at this price when one could buy a brand new Honda 125 MX'er for $3500.00. Anyway....

Image courtesy of Wolf Tooth

Wolf Tooth Offers Aero GRX Rings

Tuesday also saw the announcement from Wolf Tooth that they now have "aero" GRX chain rings. These rings come in 46T-52T sizes in oval or round styles to fit 4-bolt GRX crank sets in the 1X configuration only. 

Prices range from $81.95 for the oval rings to $84.95 for the round rings. You can see these and learn more at Wolf Tooth's page for the rings HERE

Comments: Aero chain rings for gravel? Going all-out roadie on us here! Anyway, I would think that these would be - at best - only very slightly "aero", if at all. I do think they look kinda cool. But other than that? Well, you can get big rings, for gravel time trialing, I suppose, but yeah.... Not my bag, but maybe it would work for you? There ya go..... 

From Jason Boucher's social media.

Tumbleweed Announces Hire Of Jason Boucher:

Tumbleweed Bicycle Company announced on Tuesday that they have hired Jason Boucher, former brand manage of Salsa Cycles, as an employee who will be tasked with internal affairs, product development, and coordinating Tumbleweed's dealer network. 

Comments: I have to divulge here that Jason is a good friend of mine, although we don't see each other often, and so I am a bit biased when it comes to this news.

I feel that Jason is custom-made for this role and my feeling is that he will thrive in this role. Tumbleweed and Jason are both about the "adventure by bike" ethos that Jason forged into his previous role at Salsa. I'm excited for Jason and where this might take him going forward. 

I also want to say that I had no idea whatsoever that this was in the cards while I was doing my Big Dipper handle bar review, so there was no influence on what I had to say in that review from this decision, since I was out of that loop.

Image courtesy of GT Bicycles

GT Bicycles Announces Changes In Brand Direction:

GT Bicycles, the brand once part of the Dorel Group, is now owned by The Pon Group and recently has announced that they have made a change in brand direction.

Now headed up by Jason Schiers, who was one of the  founders of Enve Composites, (Then know as Edge), GT Bicycles has been removed from Disck's Sporting Goods stores and will focus exclusively on the independent bicycle dealer network going forward. 

First up on their agenda for products is to get into the full suspension MTB market with a range of bicycles at the upper end of the market. Schiers mentioned in a recent "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" article on this story that he feels all FS MTB's will be electric in the near future. 

Comments: I think repositioning GT as a brand with a more upscale appeal is probably a good thing, but I don't look for this to be a huge mover in the bicycle landscape at this point. I'm sure GT's team has a good plan, but I would imagine it is modest and has smaller goals in mind in the short term. Dealers are reticent to buy any inventory at this point so getting GT bikes in front of consumers may be a difficult task until this glut of inventory clears itself out of the pipeline. 

That's a wrap for this week! Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Brown Season: Lying In Wait

Escape Route: Sergeant Road bike path.
Winter? I'm having a hard time finding you now. Where have you gone? It's nearly 60°F in the third week of February. Usually you would be sending your Alberta Clippers. We'd be shivering under clear skies and below zero temperatures at night. Shoveling snow and skidding on icy patches here and there. Maybe we'd see some snow starting to melt on those bright, clear days. But no. You are gone. All that is left is a brown wasteland and Spring is waiting there already. Lying in wait to swallow up Death.

It is an odd time. I cannot quite remember a Winter like this where I was riding on dry (!!) country roads without gloves (!!!) because it is so warm outside during the day. The weather people are saying overnight lows are higher than the normal daytime highs for this time of the year. Also concerning is the fact that - so far - this is the fourth driest February here on record. Cue severe drought conditions again! 

Under these unsettling circumstances I am taking advantage and riding when I can. It's been unusually busy with a couple of unexpected things coming from without and within. But that didn't stop me from riding on Tuesday.

You have to look hard to find snow now. Only sullied piles of the stuff exist in parking lots now.

Aker Road. Still smoother than a lot of paved roads. But for how much longer?

I was heading South to be able to come back on the Southwesterly breeze which was a decently strong force on this day. I was certainly feeling it in the legs and hips while I pedaled South. The roads were still in "Winter condition" which is to say mostly unmaintained and buttery smooth. The moisture in the road bed I saw on my last outing into the country is all but gone now. The road is actually starting to crack. Unless we get more moisture the road bed will start to deteriorate into fluffy dust and that would spell disaster for fast riding. 

But I don't think we'll get to that condition this year, at any rate, as rains are forecast in the long range outlook for the area. Let's hope that forecast holds up. 

A couple of horses blend into the brown landscape.

I rode the Tamland Two, now de-fendered.

I didn't have a lot of time as I needed to get back to the house and do some cleaning up for a meeting that night. So, I took a shorter loop out South of town and got in a decent two hour ride in. The Tamland Two, with its new chain and cassette, shifted great and did not give me any trouble. 

Now, the rear wheel was not giving me much confidence. I guess I should be more specific and say it was the hub. I have had issues with this hub before as well. 

Some roads are beginning to show up with fresh gravel again.

Farmers are starting to bring their equipment out of storage already.

Two years ago I had issues with that rear hub and I took it apart, cleaned up the free hub pawls and ratchet ring, and reassembled it. It seemed fine for a bit. But now it has popped and one time it sounded as though the pawls were grinding across the ratchet ring and not engaging. 

I have read that story before, so I think it is time to put that hub to rest. This means I will be relacing that Irwin carbon rim to a different rear hub. That means I'll have  a mis-matched wheel set, unless I relace the front hub as well...... Hmm.... 

A nice alleyway I took on the way back to the house.
In the meantime I'll need to set up a different wheel set for this bike. Fortunately I have a substitute wheel set waiting to be put to use, for the time being.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Introducing "The Honeman Flyer"

The Honeman Flyer by King Fabrication. (Image courtesy of Li King)
  Okay, I kind of kept this under wraps until I was sure that it was going to be a reality. Now that it is, I can tell you that I own this frame and fork and it is currently on its way to me now. 

If you've been around the blog from late last year you already have a clue as to what this is, but for those that may not know, this is a single speed specific bike based upon a 1930's track bike design by a Mr. Brennan and was a design I came across from a Facebook post. 

That post showed an advertisement from a page from a Popular Mechanics issue from the 1940's. Willie Honeman's frame building business was advertising his talents in that magazine and in the ad he showed his 1930's track bike which he won a championship on. The ad was very detailed so frame measurements and angles and such were all there. 

This prompted me to consider if track bikes, which were ridden by their owners at times over the roads to track events or for training, was a precursor to modern day gravel geometry. I wondered if such a beast, modernized, would actually work today. 

Image courtesy of Erik Mathy

Briefly, the design borrows from the geometry of the Honeman/Brennan bike right down to the super-slack seat tube, but extended to fit my 6'1" frame. (The original was long, a top tube that would work for me, but had a short seat tube) The numbers will be double-checked when it arrives and I will divulge what we have here at that point. 

The modern bits are flat mount brakes, a carbon Salsa Waxwing fork, and Paragon Machine Works sliding drop outs for through axles. The head tube is a straight 44mm one so I will be using a modern, threadless head set. But the bottom bracket is still a standard, threaded BSA version, just like the old Honeman had.

The frame features King Fab's signature double brake bridge and through-to-bare metal logo on the downtube and top tube. That rectangular patch on the non-drive chainstay is where the serial number is stamped into the frame. The paint I left up to Li to choose other than that I told him that I liked King Fab's crackle-paint jobs and that my favorite colors were purple, green, and that I liked pink. What you see here is what Li decided on for me. I quite like it.

The parts are almost all figured out for this rig and I do have to get to building it right quick as this is going to Mid-South with me. 

Yes, I also hadn't said anything about that, but it is all part of "The Plan" and no- I was not 100% in charge of "The Plan".  This will all be explained in due time. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Gravel Grinder News; Campagnolo's New Ekar GT Group

Image courtesy of Campagnolo
More Affordable Ekar GT Promises Lower Gearing:

Today Campagnolo introduced a new groupset for gravel riders called Ekar GT. It is another 13 speed groupset much like their popular Ekar group, but it is mechanically operated and has a few new features not found on the top of the range Ekar....yet anyway

Campagnolo reduced the expense in manufacturing the new Ekar GT by making the crankset in aluminum and having the cassette be made with some loose cogs and spacers instead of the Ekar's two-piece design. 

New to Ekar GT is a wider gearing range in the form of a 10T-48T range. Other cassettes have 9T-36T, 9T-42, and 10T-44T. Complimenting that are new chain rings, (not compatible with old Ekar due to a BCD range) in 44T.42T, 40T, 38T, and a new 36T option. Chainrings can be changed with the crankset in-situ, which makes for easier swaps in gearing. 

To accommodate the wider gearing range Campagnolo has made the Ekar GT with a longer derailleur cage than Ekar and they have revised the cage and pulley, making the pulley larger with more clearance. This allows for more mud clearing capabilities and easier cleaning.

Image courtesy of Campagnolo

  • Crankset: 170, 172.5, 175 Lengths, with 151mm Q-Factor
    ​- 104mm BCD, 44, 42, 40, 38, and 36 Chainring options
  • Cassette Options: 9-36*, 9-42, 10-44, 10-48
  • New Improved Hood Ergonomics
  • Groupset Weight: 2,700g
  • Groupset MSRP: $1,599
Image courtesy of Campagnolo

Comments: Apparently Ekar has been a hit for Campagnolo and with the continued popularity of the gravel segment it made sense for the Italian company to add to the range of its offerings for unpaved riding. While Campagnolo can never be said to be "budget friendly", at least this new group seems more attainable than the range-topping Ekar.

Curiously, Campagnolo have decided to introduce the lower gearing ranges and rear derailleur to handle this in the Ekar GT but with no upgrade path for Ekar. Perhaps an Ekar refresh is coming, but we will have to wait and see. 

Images and information used in this post were provided to Guitar Ted Productions by Campagnolo USA.

Tumbleweed Bicycle Co. Big Dipper Handle Bar: Conclusions

 Note: Tumbleweed Bicycle Co. sent a Big Dipper handle bar to Guitar Ted Productions at no charge for review. I was not paid, nor bribed for this review, and I always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout. The first part of this review can be seen HERE.

In the last update I mentioned that I had a very specific course in mind before I wrote up my final verdict on these handlebars and now that I have ridden that course, I am ready to end the review. I also wanted to compare and contrast the wider drop bar choices against the current fad of the use of a narrow drop bar with flared drops in road.  I'm sure it will show up in gravel events this year as well.

The Tumbleweed Big Dipper Handlebar mounted to a Dingular Gryphon Mk3

So, first let's look at my findings with all the riding I have been doing with this handlebar. I've done single track, urban, bike path, deteriorated gravel, gravel, and grassy tracks using the Big Dipper both in loaded and unloaded configurations. I have also done a small amount of snow riding as well. 

Short rides and rides lasting up to four hours have also been done on this handlebar. So, by this time I feel as though I have  a pretty good handle (no pun intended) on what the Big Dipper is like and what it has to offer. 

On the positive side of the ledger the Big Dipper bar will give a bit over rougher terrain due to its width and tubing profile. Whether this was designed purposefully or whether it is just a "happy accident", the bar does a good job of taking the edge off some sharper hits.  By no means is it as good as a suspension stem like the Redshift ShockStop stem, or like any suspension fork, but it does lend a smoother ride to the rider. 

The Big Dipper Drop Bar looks handsome and is reasonably priced at $115.00USD. So, that width won't break the bank and you get a well designed bar in return. I appreciate that about the bar also. (But again, I'll remind you that Tumbleweed sent this one out at no charge) 

About That Width: I was very skeptical that I would be able to get along with a handlebar that was 8cm wider than what I normally ride. However; I was pleasantly surprised that it felt kind of "normal" and when I got back on my other gravel drop bar rigs, those handlebars suddenly felt narrower and twitchy. 

So, yes, stability is enhanced a bit by the wider bar as well. Additionally, this stability and slowed-up handling was a boon in sketchy, loose terrain or on snow and ice. 

The width also played into having more leverage while loaded to keep side-to-side bike stability high and of course, cranking the bike up a climb was also enhanced by that width. 

So, was there anything negative to say about that wide of a handlebar? I think one has to be careful that you don't get carried away with width. I happen to have pretty wide shoulders and longer arms. This allowed me to adapt quickly to this width bar. But if your build is smaller of stature, narrow at the shoulders, or both, you could get too wide easily. I felt a bit different muscle soreness after longer rides on the Big Dipper bar and I attributed that to the wider stance of my hands. 

As far as hands go, I think one thing has to be mentioned here that not many folks who review handlebars think about, or at least, they do not mention this. People ride on the hoods while using drop bars a lot these days. In fact, many barely ever use any other hand position. So, what exactly about any handlebar makes brake hood levers feel like a good place to ride? Nothing about a handlebar affects that position. (Unless the bars are really flared, that is) That's all in the design of the lever itself. So, I won't tell you about that position on the Big Dipper bar. 

One of my nits about the Big Dipper Bar is that the extensions are too short.

Riding in the drops is where I like to be into a wind, running down a steep bit of trail, or for longer, grindy climbs. The Big Dipper is serviceable in these situations but a half an inch more length in the extensions would go a long ways toward making things happier down there. 

The best thing about the Big Dipper, as far as hand positions go, is that wide section of the tops between the levers where you can sit up a bit, relax your back, and cruise without having your hands too close together. Those bars with narrower tops sections can be hard to ride when grasping the center section due to the shorter lever you have over the steer tube. 

Now would you be better served with a more aero, narrower bar for gravel? Maybe one of those crazy, super-narrow flared drop bars? I think of it this way- If you need "aero" get aero bars and use them on gravel. Don't sacrifice the stability, comfort, and control of a wider bar for the "aero" of these weird, niche, racing-only handle bars. Well, unless you are a racer and aero bars are banned. But you do you. 

Conclusions: I really like the Tumbleweed Big Dipper Handlebar, and maybe, if I could sway them into this, I would persuade Tumbleweed to add a bit of length in the extensions. If they were to do that, the Big Dipper would be nearly a perfect drop bar for unpaved and gravel use. 

I think the design, which is much more closely related to traditional road drop bar designs, would work for many people in long-distance, ultra-gravel events, bikepacking, or just for your general purpose gravel rides. There is a ton of space up front for a handlebar bag or a longer roll for sleeping gear or some tents. The stability lent to the rider via the width is a good thing on long days where you may get fatigued by a narrower bar and have trouble with handling. 

Personally, I think the bar this Big Dipper replaced on my Singular is still one of my favorites. The Luxy Bar has a narrower distance between the brake levers, but it has a wider drop extension section which is "swept" outwards and aligns my arms and shoulders much like a Jones Bar might, for reference. Trouble is that bar has been long out of production and no one makes anything quite like it in 2024. 

The Big Dipper comes in a close second to that old handlebar I have. It's really good. Give the Big Dipper bar a try if your are looking for a handsome wide drop bar that will serve you well. It does the wide drop bar thing very nicely and would be my choice now for such a handlebar for my bikepacking rig. 

See the BigDipper Bar at Tumbleweed Bikes HERE.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Guitar Ted "Lube-Off" 2024 Intro

Announcing The Guitar Ted "Lube-Off" 2024:

As you long-time blog readers will know, I periodically run my lubrication tests for chain lube. I call them "Lube-Offs" and I generally pit a few lubricants against each other by applying them to my bicycles, running them for a season of riding, and then analyzing the results.  

My expectations are for "dry lubricants" which will be used for gravel riding, primarily. Those expectations are as follows:

  • No "gunk build-up" on the chain, jockey wheels, or cassette and crank rings. 
  • Slippery feel to chain even after many miles.
  • Ease of application and re-application.
  • Resistant to wet conditions, but not impervious to them. I want to be able to rely on the lube even if I have a low water crossing, or get caught in a shower. 
  • No dirt or gritty residue when checking the chain with my "Finger Test". 

This round will be much like the previous rounds where I have pitted a challenger against my current "best" dry chain lube. That is now SILCA's Super-Secret Chain Lube. You may also remember that I am a big fan of DuMonde Tech. So, I thought it might prove to be a good test to have these two pitted against a newcomer. 

And what will that new lubricant be? Well, I came across an interesting new contender with a nice set of results from some well-respected testers. So, let's introduce you to....

Effetto Mariposa's Flowerpower Wax Chain Lube:

From the webpage for the lubricant:

  • Creates a solid layer of wax between the moving parts of the chain, reducing friction, noise and increasing the life of the chain
  • Unlike lubricating oils, it does not dirty clothes and resists contamination by dirt and dust very well
  • Thanks to the sunflower seed wax, it is very resistant to water and is ideal in any season, on and off-road
  • High wax to water ratio (over 50%!)
  • Rapidly biodegradable: it does not contain PTFE, sulphides, graphene or other chemicals harmful to the environment
  • Evaluated by Zero Friction Cycling as the best drip lubricant ever tested

Okay, so that's pretty impressive. I have already purchased a bottle of this stuff and it is on the way to G-Ted Headquarters. (From Switzerland!) So, when it gets here I will choose a bike to put the stuff on and we'll get on to testing this lubricants heady claims out on real gravel in Iowa. 

By the way, the DuMonde Tech was freshly installed on the new chain I just put on the Tamland Two. The SILCA Super-Secret lube is on the Noble GX5, the Twin Six Standard Rando v2, and the Black Mountain Cycles MCD. I'll likely clean off the SILCA Super Secret lube from one of those bikes and put the Flowerpower on that bike.  All I am waiting on is for the Effetto Mariposa lube to arrive and the test can begin.

Stay tuned for updates throughout the season.