Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fall Views: B&W

I am coming to point where the black and white imagery is starting to make more sense to me again. The greens and colors from flowers has faded and Fall isn't really popping like it has in the past. So, I decided to shoot a few shots in black and white on my "Dirt Home From Work" ride the other day.

I've been riding the Singular Buzzard hard tail of late. It is a bike that was arguably a little ahead of its time. A slack head angle, short-ish rear end, and a long travel fork. I think it was really meant to have a 120mm travel fork on it but I run a 140mm travel MRP fork on it which really makes the bike a bruiser. It isn't light, by any stretch, and it feels nearly indestructible with that burly steel frame.

The wheels are a bit unusual as well. Velocity USA Duallys with On One tires set up tubeless and they look positively beastly on those rims. This bike is not going to get mistaken for an XC rig anywhere. That's for sure! That said, there are a few things, due to its forerunning status, that were missed in the design that are ubiquitous on other bikes of this ilk these days. Things like a port for an internally routed dropper post, through axle rear drop outs, and Boost spacing.

But one can live without, and certainly ride just as well, those finer details. The Buzzard is a fun, capable, and good looking bike. It's my only geared mountain bike these days, and by the way, it is 2X 10! Not the usual 1X fare here. Well, anyway, here are some views in black and white from my last week's riding of the Buzzard.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Minus Ten Review - 42

A head set race to clearance the fork crown for early 29"ers from Chris King.
Ten years ago this week I was talking about 1 1/8th head set stuff. That's funny now because, well, hardly anything uses an 1 1/8th headset. Things have really changed in ten years time with bikes.

Now, don't get me wrong, 1 1/8th headsets are not gone. Many bikes still use them. However; any serious mountain bike has eschewed the former standard for something that has a tapered steer tube and some form of mixed bearing size set up. The straight steer tube thing in mountain bikes was the standard for years. Ever since Gary Fisher pushed the "Evolution" sized steer tube and the industry followed up with a move from 1" steer tubes to 1 1/8th, and not the 1 1/4" Gary wanted back then. But still, things were all pretty much a standard cup pressed into a tube with bearings usually spinning on angular contact surfaces. Well......okay. Maybe "spinning" is taking things a bit too far. You know how much a head set bearing rotates.

So we had all these cool anodized cups we could press into frames and add a bit of color to our rigs. One of the companies that was all in to that was Chris King. Ten years ago they announced that you could mix and match colors on their headset components. I actually got a blue/orange/silver mixed Chris King 1 1/8th head set that I had in my Pofahl, if I recall correctly. But that got moved when I was trying to track down a creak in my bike and the King multi-colored headset ended up in my Mukluk dubbed the Snow Dog where it has been ever since.

I know tapered steer tube, integrated head set frames are stronger and it is a better deal for longer travel suspension bikes, fat bikes, and maybe your road racer rig, but those old cup and cone/sealed bearing 1 1/8th head sets are so simple and added a nice touch to the overall look of a bike.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday News And Views

The Spurcycle Multi-Pouch
High Tech Sandwich Bag:

Okay, I have a preponderance for using the "dirt bag way" when it comes to a lot of things. Take Trans Iowa, for instance, where I have used plastic shopping bags from various stores we frequent as recycled race bags for the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Or my penchant for using a sandwich bag for my cell phone and money when I go out on a ride.

I'm not here to go in to a deep psychological search for the reasons why I am the way I am, but I will say that when something comes around that purports to be better than a "dirt bag way", then I am skeptical. I was quite skeptical when Spurcycle sent over this "Multi-Pouch" dealio to me to try out. I know sandwich baggies have limitations. The lifespan of a sandwich baggie isn't long, but they are el-cheapo, so I can forgive that flaw. Where you have sandwich making going on for school children, there is a steady supply of those plastic thing-a-ma-bobs. But, some aren't very durable and leak. Some have malfunctioning zipper locks. But......they are so cheap and plentiful! 

Actually, I once got a hold of a couple of those heavy duty baggies that Skratch Labs was sending along with their product. Those were awesome when phones were smaller. Not so much now. I have had some other phone holder thingies but none of them were exactly what I wanted. For one thing, in my humble opinion, a cell phone is to be buried as deeply into your kit as possible, not prominently displayed on your handlebars. Better to leave it behind, in my opinion. But that's me being all dirt-bag-ish.

Well, that said, the Multi-Pouch is pretty cool, if a bit on the spendy side for a high-tech sandwich baggie. Check out the review I did on it on RidingGravel.com here


Gentrified Fat Bikers rejoice.. Behold! The $345.00 boot from 45NRTH
 45NRTH Collaboration With Red Wing Yields Expensive Boot:

Wolvhammers are one thing, but make the outsole out of leather sourced from Red Wing and add a gauche white sole and you have the latest money-separating-from-wallet item for fat bikers this season.

The style statement from the 45-ers up nort will cost you $345.00 big ones. That's a lot of cabbage to look fashionable. But.......at least you can clip in to your Spuds! 

Look, I'm not a big believer in clipping in for Winter rides in real snow and ice. Flats work well, remove the possibility of a "heat sink" effect on your feet, especially if you use nylon composite pedals, and you can get a foot down and get going a lot easier with flats. But that's me. It just makes a lot more sense to my mind to use flats and in my experience, it has proven out. But you could use this fashion statement on flats too, couldn't you?

Yes, you could, but if that's how you are going to roll in Winter, you could arguably buy two pair of boots for the price of these, keep your feet as warm if not warmer, and look mahvelous dahling! 

Meh! Fahgeddaboudit. It's probably just the "dirt bagger" which is coming out in me here.

A Note On The Rookie Registration:

One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday's Trans Iowa v14 update on Registration. I wanted to say that since the outcome of the Rookie registration will certainly be a lottery drawing, I am not posting names of Rookies on the Roster page. 

I will provide a page where Rookie names will be listed so you know if the card sent made it and who is in the running for the 50 available spots.It will also keep tabs on the number of Rookies in the running.

So, stay tuned for the updates and look for the link to the Lottery Page on the Trans Iowa v14 site.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: Registration Update

New and improved now with date and place!
Okay, the second phase of registration is over! The first was for past Winners and people who had done more than six Trans Iowas, dubbed "Plus Six". Then it was those who had finished a Trans Iowa or were a veteran rider of the event who got a crack at it. Both folks in each group had to be "active" Trans Iowa riders- meaning anyone that had ridden post-T.I.v8. Anyone having ridden in an older TI and never past V8 would have to reapply as a Rookie, winner, finisher, or veteran.

So, here's how things shook out. The Winners/Plus Six group left six spots on the table. Those got kicked down to the Vets/Finishers group who then left 10 spots on the table after yesterday's registration period for that group concluded. That means we have 70 folks signed on and 50 spots left for the Rookies, whose cards should start showing up today. Rookies have until October 28th to get a card in.

We have some stellar folks signed on already and it will be fun to see who will throw their hat into the ring for the first time at a Trans Iowa. Interestingly, this may be one of the biggest Rookie classes at a Trans Iowa, if they all show up in April. But.......they won't. Historically, most drops on the roster for a Trans Iowa come from the Rookie class. Last year had the potential to smash the Rookie class record at the start of a Trans Iowa, but that didn't happen by a long shot. And that's how it has been all along.

Surely some Vets/Finishers, and Winners won't show. That's inevitable, but attrition on the roster from those groups combined never equals how many Rookies drop off in a given year. In fact, there have been Rookies that have made it through the lottery two years in a row now that still haven't shown up in April. That's kind of crazy, isn't it? Oh well........

Obviously I did not have to instigate the lottery clause for the Vets/Finishers, but that definitely will happen for the Rookies. It has for the past two years and I do not see that changing this time. Of course, this is all predicated on whether or not the cards I get are filled out correctly and legibly. Last year I threw out several cards that were either not correctly filled out or that I could not read. So, if I get 50 plus readable, correctly filled out cards from the Rookie class, there will be a lottery. But then again, maybe not, if many cards are screwed up.

By the way, the penmanship on the cards I have received is "next level" stuff, for the most part. Y'all have really raised your game out there and I am impressed! I knew you folks could do it! So, the Rookies best have their "A game" on for penmanship because the bar has been set pretty high by the Winners, Vets, and Finishers!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dirt Home From Work: That Light

Mid afternoon light in the woods.
Fall- The shadows grow longer and the days grow colder and shorter in October. This is the time of year we get "that light". The Sun is in the right part of our sky now so that the light gets that diffused, golden hue during Sunny days. It gives everything a much more ethereal, dramatic look about it.

Maybe that is why Fall is so loved by many around here. It can be achingly beautiful at times. Yesterday was one of those days here in the Mid-West. In fact, we're supposedly going to have a string of days like that. Best to get out and enjoy this while the gettin' is good, because we're days away from freezing cold, and if we are to get snow, that is only weeks away, most likely.

I rode home without a jacket through the woods on my way home from work. It was perfect. 70°, no wind to speak of, that golden light, and a peaceful countenance was on the land. That won't be the case later as the winds of Winter are sure to get cranked up soon enough and the leaves will be chattering in the streets as they scurry by bare trees where they once thrived.

The only negative thing I can see about the day yesterday was those dratted Japanese beetles which are flying around all over. They look like lady bugs, but they are not, and they are far worse than those. But other than that, this weather is going to be some of the best we'll have until next Spring, in terms of warmth and comfortable bicycling.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Light 'Em Up: Part 2

Economy mode @ 150 Lumens
Yesterday I posted about this new Lezyne Power Drive 1100i light I bought. Well, I had a couple of obligations last night, but I did finally get out to buzz around the neighborhood and see what this light could do.

Of course, street lights and what not pollute the darkness so I sought out the nearby bicycle trail which is canopied in trees and gets pretty black at night. I toggled between a few of the settings and decided I liked one of them that I could live with for a lot of my gravel rides. I didn't know how powerful it was, because in my mind, knowing the numbers influences you to think you have to have "such-and-such" amount of light if the number is too low and you go higher because you think you should. The thing is, you can ride off of less light on a gravel road than you think.

Back in the day, I did a lot of light testing. I was using cheaper commuter type lights that were the norm unless you went in for the ultra-powerful mountain bike lights and their attendant expensive prices. I found a hack by getting a camping light meant to be worn on the head which I modded into a head light for my bicycle. It was rated at 110 Lumens and it probably was that for the first 10-15 minutes, then it gradually got dimmer. I did plenty of night time gravel with that light. I also used a Cat Eye and Blackburn commuter lights there for a while which were similarly powered battery units with similar light outputs.

Then I got a hold of some light, I cannot recall what it was, that had 150 Lumens, and it was so much better that I determined this is all will ever need. Of course, brighter and brighter lights have come out for very reasonable prices. I have gone up in power and still toggle back to medium settings on most lights for gravel travel.

650 Lumens here, but I don't need that much light.
I tried the higher settings but I knew I didn't need that much. I ended up settling on the third from the brightest, (This was still not counting the "Overdrive" mode, which I never did try), and I rode through some alleyways to check out if that middle setting picked up the terrain clues which I need to find the "good line". I could, so I think the middle setting was just perfect. High speed downhills might require something different, but around here those don't last all that long and generally go straight anyway.

I also have to consider that I most often would be supplementing the handle bar light with a helmet mounted one, which would also help with speedier downhills.

So, despite my having three higher settings, including that "Overdrive mode", I don't think I'll often use those. What did I end up with? Well, 150 Lumens! Just like I did a long time ago. That setting is listed as lasting 9 hours and 30 minutes without the extra battery pack. I think I'll be pretty happy with this light, and I suspect night time riding will be fun with it. Also, I should mention that the light features a mode which you can use to toggle between the Economy mode, (the one I liked best), and the Overdrive Mode, which might be useful in certain situations where max light might be necessary or advised.

Finally, a comment about the light pattern not being "car friendly" yesterday in the comment section made me think. You know, most vehicles I see are trucks and SUV's, which have higher headlights than most cars. In fact, I noticed last night that most of those vehicles headlights are only slightly below my eye level. So, I am not concerned about "blinding" an oncoming driver with 150 Lumens of light when their low level lights are almost at eye level and are more like a 1000 Lumens in intensity. Plus, I don't live in Germany where that is forbidden. And I hope to be traveling gravel at night, so traffic is almost nil out there in the country. Maybe for urban commuters, that is a concern, but it isn't for me.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Light 'Em Up

This is what I have to punch a hole through the night, only mine is silver.
Tis the season for night riding. That means you need to have a good light. The thing is, these days is that you don't need to settle for a "good light", because there are now so many great lights. 

Case in point is this new Lezyne Power Drive 1100i that I just got the other day. This light has an 1100 Lumen output at maximum output for one hour and fifteen minutes. Now, that may not sound super impressive, but that is from a self contained unit. Compare this to a Magicshine light I have which came to me via review duties about four years ago, and the Magicshine at 1100 Lumens doesn't even come close to the same form factor or in as efficient a design as the Lezyne unit.

That Magicshine light, for its day, was really a good value, at something like $200.00, while this Lezyne light costs $179.99. Okay, so.....? Well, the Magicshine light has a separate battery pack and charging unit, plus the light head is fixed in position and cannot pivot. The Lezyne light costs more, but I have a separate battery to supplement the internal battery in the unit, it charges via a simple USB cord, and the light head is positionable. Plus, the spare battery pack can be used to charge other USB charging type devices. Or I can use the external battery to lengthen my run times on the light.

The Magicshine simply cannot compete with that. The Magicshine is still produced, by the way, and its basic feature set and limitations make it less expensive today. You can get one for a little over $100.00.

That's just one example, and the lighting color, intensity, and the heat given off are all improved as well with this newer technology. It's amazing to me because I remember the day when you had to shell out about a grand for light this intense and it came with a ballast and a water bottle sized battery. That wasn't all that long ago either. Now you can spend a little over a hundred bucks and light 'em up all night long if ya want to. It's just crazy how good lights for night riding are these days.