Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Welcome To The Dark Side

Yep......carbon.
The latest craze in the gravel travel world is for a company to slip in a bike with 650B wheels and wide rubber. Then they claim that they have this awesome geometry, (generally it is warmed over CX geo), and they start in how all the roads and even single track is now your playground.

As if that weren't the fact with any bike, really. But whatever.

I'm not here to tell you what you should do, I'm just here poking a bit at the marketing machine. This gig they are telling us about isn't "new" and what they put out, (again, in the general sense), isn't really anything but cyclo cross stuff with 650B wheels shoved in. Sometimes it is straight up roadie geometry, (The new Surly Midnight Special), and sometimes they get it mostly right, (The new All City G.M.).

Anyway, I got these new Irwin Cycling wheels to test for RidingGravel.com and they are 650B based. Disc, of course, so that makes them an easy swap into my Raleigh Tamland Two. Now, my Tamland Two is a 2014 model. Yep...... Four years old, and it is steel, and it has reasonable length chain stays, and it can take a big, wide tire in 650B and 29", and it uses a standard road crank. Plus, it doesn't have cyclo cross geometry. So, not new, but in some ways, actually better than what many companies are putting out now.

Weird. Guess some folks aren't paying attention.

Steel- check, 650B wheels-check, big rubber- check.
So, to all you new entries to this niche- welcome to the dark side. 

The old Raleigh may be on the cutting edge with these wheels and its geometry, but there are a few things that will make this bike obsolete in a few years. First and foremost- the quick release wheels. Those quick releases are on their way out. You probably won't even know it when it finally happens to all high performance bikes, but we are in the middle of that "takeover". The other thing that will doom this bike eventually is the 1 1/8th steer tube.That's a good thing to have from the standpoint of front end compliance, but this will be made obsolete by the fact that all forks made in the future will one day have tapered steer tubes. Brands like Soma and Ritchey try to keep it going, but someday...... Then there is the standard road crank and bottom bracket width. Despite decades of bikes being built this way, Road Boost is coming and there will be a time when standard width bottom brackets and standard chain line cranks will become a thing of the past.

Look, I hope I am wrong about all of that, because if I am, I can keep my Tamland going. If I am right, well, one day I'll have to hang it up on the wall for good. Let's hope that dark side doesn't come to pass!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Six String Side: The Effects

When I started this blog over ten years ago, I stated that it was a "Bicycle and guitar oriented elixir....". Well, the "guitar" part sort of got pushed out by the bicycle stuff, but I've always been playing. In the Easter post,(2016), I mentioned playing my '90 Strat, and someone suggested I detail the fleet, so here ya go. Hopefully y'all enjoy the change in pace. I'll post something periodically. This time it isn't guitars, but the stomp boxes.......

The new pedal board I got over the weekend stuffed with a selection of my effects pedals. Here in construction mode! 
 I've periodically shown you my guitar collection over the last couple of years, but there are amplifiers and these little, funny, painted boxes of electrical massaging that we guitarists call "effects pedals" or more commonly- stomp boxes, since to turn on the effect of choice, you must step, or "stomp", on a button which is an on/off switch, most generally.

I think I got my first stomp box in the very early 80's, like 1980, or it even could have been 1979, but it was an Electro-Harmonix "Big Muff". I didn't like what it did at the time so I sold it. (Dumb! It would be worth a mint now!) I also had an original Vox wah-wah for a while as well, but sold that. (Again- dumb!) Anyway, the point is that I have been collecting these little funny boxes for years. I have a pretty good collection.

Anyway, I don't expect that a lot of you know or care about these gizmos, but I will list each one and link to the website for each if available. You can click the links to find out what they do. Starting from the little grey box on the lower right then and going clockwise from there.
So, you'll notice I favor this "Hungry Robot" company. Well, the guy behind the company used to live here in this area, so I started supporting him and as it turns out, he has some unique circuits that were things I was looking for. Plus, these are sort of rare birds in the pedal world. Not everyone will have one of these things. Anyway, Hungry Robot is now based out of North Carolina and I highly recommend his work.

The board is a "Pedal Train" model that was big enough that I could get on what I felt was a minimal amount of effects to get me by at my church gig. If I were playing out, there are a few things I wouldn't have on here and a couple of things I would have on here, but that's not how it is. Anyway, I have enough stuff laying around to set up a completely different pedal board. The pedal board idea isn't new, but this is my first. I used to "daisy chain" everything together, but the other guitarists at the church were hauling in all their stuff in these fancy cases which had everything organized and I thought it was a better idea, so........

Anyway...... Guitar nerds.....whatta ya gonna do?

Monday, February 19, 2018

News From Frostbike 2018

Salsa adds carbon versions of the Woodchipper, Cowchipper, and Cowbell bars for 2018
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Carbon Bars: 

Salsa Cycles could probably lay claim to the three most popular off road/gravel/back road bars in existence now with their line up of the Woodchipper, Cowbell, and Cowchipper bars. These bars have been around for a while in two versions, a 6061 T-6 aluminum version and a 7000 series aluminum version, but curiously there were no carbon drop bars.

That's all been changed now with Frostbike's announcement that a carbon version of all three bars would now be available. All carbon models are at the same price of $215.00 each. The aluminum bar model in each version in 7050 T-6 aluminum is $75.00. So why spend $140.00 more for carbon. Well, it would save you 75 grams, so says Salsa.

They also propose that the carbon bar, while being stiffer, actually absorbs more vibrations. Hmm......I've heard that story before with carbon forks. Not buying that one. The theory of carbon absorbing "higher frequency vibrations" is just that, a theory, and in reality, carbon just passes different vibrations than steel does. It isn't a "buzz" that we are trying to damp here. Anyway, yeah....... Not buying into that theory. The bar needs to move to mitigate the constant input from gravel and a stiffer bar will move less.

Then the bar has a wider 31.8mm section for better mounting of gizmos and aero bars, or whatnot. Okay, yeah, good deal there, but for $140.00 extra bucks? Look, they will sell every one of these they can make because, carbon. But I have a hard time with saving 75 grams for a $1.86 per gram. Especially for a stiffer bar. If the bar was demonstrably more comfortable? Okay, I might bite on that.

Surly Midnight Special- image courtesy of Surly Bikes
Surly Midnight Special:

I posted about all this stuff today on Riding Gravel here, so I'll spare the deets. Let's get to the meat of my opinion here then.

This is the furthest thing from a gravel bike geometry, short of being a rando bike, I can think of . High bottom bracket and a steep head angle make the Midnight Special a non-starter for me. But hey! Don't let what I think works best keep you away. 

That said, if you read the Surly blog post on this bike carefully it is right there in front of your eyes to see that this bike is an outgrowth of the Pacer, Surly's full on roadie sled. This just takes bigger tires is all, oh......and flat mount disc brakes. 

It is notable that there are roadie things going on here like down tube shifter bosses, a lack of all those wild fork braze ons, and short-ish chain stays which point to more of a road bike usage than it does an adventure/gravel bike use. Through axle front and rear and the aforementioned flat mount disc brakes are really making this a sibling to the Pacer with modern touches. If it couldn't take great big rubber, that would be easier to see here, I think.

No single speed option makes it an odd bike for Surly, or is it really a moving on? I'm noticing more and more that the "old Surly" is fading away, and the "single speed for everything" philosophy seems to be going to the wayside. Maybe I have that wrong.........

The "Gorilla Monsoon"..........Really? -Image courtesy of All City
Oh! That Name Though!

It is kind of a tradition at Quality Bicycle Products for any bicycle they make to have a weird name. That all started with the '02 announcement of the Surly Karate Monkey. That will be a model name no company at QBP will ever live up to, in my opinion, but bless those folks- they keep trying! 

All City is no stranger to bizarrely named bicycles. The Spacehorse, Mr. Pink, The Electric Queen, and now.........drum roll, please........The Gorilla Monsoon.

Please make it stop! 

All right, besides the weirdo name, this bike is really a pretty dang cool rig. That bi-plane fork crown! Steel fork! Fade paint job in Orange? Yes!  Okay, that had my attention, but the geometry is probably as jacked as the Surly, right?

Wrong!

This bike tics most of the boxes. They made the chain stays really wide here to accept these big, mountain bike WTB tires, so the chain ring clearances suffer a bit, but otherwise, this bike is the best thing I've seen out of QBP for gravel riding since the intro of the Warbird.

And did I mention that Orange fade paint job and bi-plane fork crown? Oh......I did? Uhh.......okay. Moving on now!

I could live with this bike. It's pretty nice on paper and the images are looking great here. I'm not sure about 1X for gravel. I'd have to see about that. The crank chain ring options seem a bit limiting, and yes......I like front changers. But that said, a 1X probably is in my future because, fashion. Gotta at least try it. Whether it is this bike or something like it, I will give it a try.

So, of all the Frostbike news, which also included a slimmed down Full Suspension line up from Salsa, the (gulp) Gorilla Monsoon is the best thing I've seen here. Although I despise that name. 

Anyway.......

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Touring Series: The Tour Gets A Name

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

When I returned home from this tour I wrote a rough draft manuscript of about half of the trip. It is 27 pages of hand written stuff, front and back, and this is what I will be posting to begin with. You'll be able to identify the 1994 manuscript material by my using italics to post it here. After the manuscript information ends, the rest of the story will be picked up from memories written down in 2008. That will appear as regular text here. As mentioned last week, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant.

In this entry we get the backstory on the naming of the Tour and the beginning of the ride from the morning of the day we left. 
___________________________________________________________________


There is still the explanation of the name of this tour. A little of this can be guessed at, on my part, it is obvious. However; Troy and Steve had some panhandling to do as well. Troy, whose brother's bike he was originally going to use, had to abandon that plan a week before the tour. The bags on the rear struck his heels and there was no way to make it work. So, Troy had to beg and borrow a friends deceased father's bike. Then Steve, he borrowed money for the food for all of us on his girl friend's credit card. (Admittedly, that was a beg and borrow for all of us.) Troy and I also had to borrow sleeping mats and tents.

Another look at those 26 X 1.5" Avocet Kross tires I used. This image is a current one.
 All of this lead to a name for our little trip that hadn't even begun yet. Since my co-worker and the customer that were going along were around for all of this, we jokingly called it the "Beg Borrow and Bastard Tour". I had my bike cobbled together and it worked fairly well. I had my gear lined up. It was decided that we would leave right after RAGBRAI on the first week of August.

In a hurried frenzy to ready our bikes, Troy and I spent two nights late at the shop working on them. I had a check at the point where the stem for my drop bars wouldn't work on the bike's original fork. This required a fork change. After three forks we found that the headset needed to be changed as well. Then we discovered after two hours and three headsets that I needed a BMX specific headset! Then it was the tires. I couldn't get any tires to fit on my new wheels! I made my thumbs into burning blister pods trying to force tires too small onto my rims. Not even the efforts of a very drunk and funny Steve could avail me. I was led to cursing and I called out, "This bastard bike!" Well, "bastard" became a pet word of the tour and the title of our tour had been fulfilled.

Troy and I finished our bikes in the nick of time. Saturday came and went, and then I packed my bags and made ready to depart from Dewar Tap at 5:30am Sunday morning. I was a little nervous, very excited, and anxious to go.

On Sunday, August 7th, 1994, I awoke to my alarm clock at 4:30am, walked out into the kitchen and.....AARRRRGH! Glass in my heel! After a little first aid treatment, I got my wife up and we picked up Troy at 5:05am. The sun was just coming up. It was cool, but it looked like it could be a great day. Steve and Brenda, (his girlfriend) were waiting at the Dewar Tap when we got there at about 5:35am.

After fooling around nervously for about 15 to 20 minutes we said our goodbyes. We left northward from Dewar on a county blacktop on our trip. I waved goodbye to my wife and turned away. Goodbyes suck, so I didn't look back.

I really didn't know what to expect. The longest single bike ride I'd ever done was maybe when I rode about 30 miles on the Raccoon River Trail. I don't know what these guys decided to do for mileage when the day started. Although; the plan was to go to my family's reunion in Lime Springs, Iowa some 75 miles away. Maybe it was the motivation of having my relatives see us on our way. Maybe it was the tail wind we had all the way up there. I don't know, but I felt sure I could do it. 
___________________________________________________________________________

Troy's borrowed bike was a metallic blue Schwinn Voyager with 27" wheels and these ultra-plush Michelin touring tires. Ironically, Steve's bike was also a Schwinn, but it was a red Cross Cut model which originally had flat bars. Steve had converted it to drop bars. Of course, Cross Cuts were 700c based bikes. My, new-to-me 1984-ish Mongoose, all chrome, by the way,  had 26" wheels. Three different wheel sizes......hmm....not very good planning there! By the way, the bike Troy meant to take did have 26" wheels, An American brand mountain bike. A classic vintage bike nowadays! But as mentioned, the stays were too short and he couldn't get the panniers back far enough to clear his heels while pedaling. 

Next Week:The First Hundy- Part 1

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 7

My 1972 Gretsch Country Club
Ten years ago on the blog here I actually posted a ton of images! Pretty dang surprised at the stuff I had to go through for today's post, which has been unusual until now. We'll see if I was able to keep that up in future "Minus Ten Review" posts!

I posted this image of my Gretsch. Back then I didn't know what year it was or even what model guitar it was. Now through the magic of the innergoogles I have ascertained all I need to know about the thing. I still have it and it sounds pretty good when I take it out and play it. I don't use it a lot, but whenever I do, it gets way more compliments and comments than any other guitar I own combined. Something about that big ol' hollow body!

Of course, this weekend is another edition of Frostbike, the dealer only invitation show that Quality Bikes puts on. I used to go to this gig for several years, but I think this makes three years in a row that I haven't gone. I had many a good time there. Many! Too good a time some years!

2008 was not all that great, let me tell ya! Now I had been going to Frostbike regularly for five years by this point. This Frostbike was an entirely different deal. I went up with a former co-worker that was taking care of the Ergon booth for Jeff Kerkove, who had just taken on that gig the year before. The guy I went up to the show with was Carl Buchanan. He dropped me off at QBP pre-show where I hooked up with then Salsa Brand Manager, Jason Boucher. I was to "shadow" Jason all weekend and I was staying at his home while we were up there. It was a very gracious offer on his part, but it cost him dearly and I was ultimately embarrassed greatly!

Part of the gig as brand Manager was to deal with all the big dealers and international press and international dealers who were there to join in Frostbike. Back then it still was a legitimate "trade show" of sorts with a fair amount of product releases going on simultaneously. Remember, there was no Saddledrive, or anything else other than Sea Otter and Interbike for QBP to show wares at stateside. So, Frostbike was a "big deal" and it attracted a lot of dealer attention worldwide.

The "bike pile" in the basement of One On One Bike Studio in Minneapolis
So it was that I ended up in a brew pub/restaurant with Jason, the Surly Crew, the German distributors, and the Japanese distributors and their photographers. It was a wild time with food and beers flowing. Later, we were to go to the famous On On One Bicycle Studio, not far from where we were engaged in eating and drinking on a cold, snowy Minneapolis night. The Japanese contingent insisted on some kind of impromptu photoshoot with Jason and Salsa's Kid Reimer, posing them on their bicycles and filming them riding to One On One.

I was a bystander with nothing to do with any of this circus, and Jason, being cognizant of that fact, tossed me the keys to his Honda Element and told me to go ahead and drive to One On One, park the vehicle, and wait for him inside. Supposedly there was some shindig going on down there as well.

So, keep in mind that I was a total Minneapolis noob and knew nothing of the ways of the inner city. As I searched for a spot to park, I noted that there was a little used lot right across from One On One. I couldn't believe my luck as I parked the Element, locked it up, and strolled on into One On One where I saw a few folks I knew and started chatting. The conversation went to how horrendous it was to find a spot to park when I spouted off that I had found this awesome spot easily right across the street.

That's when I found out that was an impound lot- no parking or your vehicle gets towed. 

Yeah......Heart sank, felt one inch tall...... All the guilts! Anyway, I went down in the basement where the infamous One On One "bike pile" is and stayed out of the view of the crowd upstairs which was buzzing about the "idiot that got Boucher's car towed".

Obviously Jason showed up to find out the terrible news and he shot out of there to retrieve his vehicle. A couple of hours later and over $260.00 dollars poorer, I found myself in a very uncomfortably silent vehicle heading back to Jason's abode.

That was the longest car ride ever! 

And yes, we are still friends! 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday News And Views

I'm Never Gonna Let You Down:

What if you never had to refresh your tubeless tire sealant? Sounds like a fairy tale? Well.......it isn't, and it hasn't been for a long time. First of all, there are a LOT of available tire sealant products that will not dry up inside of your tubes or tubeless tires. Probably the most famous of these is Slime. Heck we were using Slime back in the 90's effectively to prevent flats in our mountain bike tubes. We never gave a thought to it drying up because.......well it never dried up. That's why.

But just this week Finish Line, the bicycle lube and cleaner company, announced a "new sealant" (To the bicycle industry)  that will "... last the entire usable life of the tire".

Sounds like a bold claim, but really, this part isn't new. Like I have illustrated above. The reason many sealants dry out is because the carrier fluid, the fluid that has the coagulants suspended in it, is generally ammonia. Latex is also commonly used and dries out as well. So, you get the very effective sealing properties, but the fluid and latex dries out in a few months, on average. Now there have been other sealants I have tried which do not dry out, but their sealing properties are.....not very good. That's why you generally do not find many cyclists bantering about this fantastic sealant which never dries out AND seals punctures with awesome speed and regularity. Those traits in a sealant- never drying out and effective sealing properties- seem to be mutually exclusive characteristics, unless Finish Line has figured out how to do it.

Of course, we have to keep in mind that "sealing" doesn't just mean plugging punctures, but sealing casings as well, because your tubeless tires are not likely full on UST, no sealant necessary tires. You'd know if you had a tubeless tire like that because it would weigh a LOT. Almost all tubeless tires for bicycles now require sealant to seal off the casings, otherwise you'd lose air quickly enough that you'd be pumping your tires up more than riding. So, will this fancy-pants Finish Line sealant do a good job of that? Don't know the answer to that question just yet.

Orange, bendy, secure......
  The Glorified Zip Tie: 

The ride was awesome and the crew you were riding with wants to head over to the local coffee spot for a drink and some vittles, but you are super nervous about your rig sitting out......there! All alone, nobody watching it with protective eyes, and you cannot see it from where you are sitting. One of your friends says something to you, but you didn't catch it because your mind is.......elsewhere. 

You know, you could bring along some sort of  cable lock, but they are sort of clunky. A "U" lock? Not on your life! There are those slinky steel cable locks that are small and packable, but they look.......anemic. Easy to cut? They look like they might be. Hmm...... What to do.

So, here is a possibility to consider for those sort of rides, or if you need to just run into a store or business quick. The Ottolock. It's pretty much best described as being a "glorified zip tie". It's light, flexible, and easily stowed into a jersey pocket, seat bag, frame bag, or looped around your frame, since it has a  rubberized covered, triple stainless steel layered band. Like I say, it is light, at 152 grams for the one I was sent. It is spendy, at $65.00, but that's more than worth it for the peace of mind and security. This is supposed to be better at securing your bike than a cable lock and maybe not quite as nice as a "U" lock.

Well, it seems like it makes sense and it seems well made. It should work great as a "medium security" type device for locking your bike to a rack, pole, etc. I will be using it here and figuring out if the thing is worth it or what.

Formatting in One, Two, Three.....
Trans Iowa v14 Cue Formatting Underway:

The goal before February is through is to have all the Trans Iowa v14 cues formatted for Spring Recon. That's when I take the cues out in the field and, usually, have someone drive according to them and check that they make sense. We wouldn't want you turning left when you should be turning right, for instance.

Anyway, the process got started this week with the cues to checkpoint # 1 getting done. I should have cues through checkpoint #2 done for sure this weekend. That's the biggest section, in terms of miles, and that will take slightly longer to fill into the cue sheet format than the last section. Although, I haven't actually counted the number of prompts, which could be more for the last sector. Hmm.....

At any rate, in other T.I.v14 news, the plan is set for the special gifts to the riders this year. I have done various things in the past, most notably t-shirts, but I will be handing out completely different items to the riders this year. If you show up, they will be somethings I think you will be stoked to have. We'll see. Thanks to Lederman Bail Bonds, one of our longstanding Trans Iowa sponsors, since it is because of their generosity that this is happening.

Okay, that's a wrap for this week. Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

To Flat Or Not To Flat

These swanky Fyxation Mesa Subzero's may be seeing a lot of gravel duty
I don't know what it is exactly. Maybe I am reverting to a childhood status when it comes to riding bicycles. Maybe I am too much about having more fun these days. Whatever the reason, I just got in these new Fyxation Mesa Subzero pedals and I was thinking, why not use flat pedals for gravel riding? 

I'm sure many of you have, and many of you reading here do use flat pedals for gravel road riding, but I generally don't give it much thought. So, why now? Well, again......I'm not sure! I just know that it suddenly seems like a great idea.

So, why not?

By the way, I have used flats on gravel road riding before. I did the "Fatbike Century" over a year ago on flats. I also used street shoes! It was a successful experiment and raised not a few questions in my mind about why we insist on using specific pedals and shoes for all our riding. I don't think it is necessary and I wonder if this predilection with using specific shoes and pedals hasn't actually caused more issues than it solves.

I suppose we could debate things till the cows come home, but I have had one observation that, along with clothing choices, seems to take down a huge barrier to getting out there, for me, at least. That is that when I have a bicycle with flats installed I am more likely to want to ride that bike than I am my bikes without flat pedals. To tag along this line of thinking, I am also more likely not to worry a bunch about wearing cycling specific duds as well. Just a jersey, pop on a helmet, go ride.

Easy.

Sure, that doesn't mean that it isn't a good idea to use that specific cycling gear much of the time, but if I had only clipless pedal bikes, and if I thought I could only ride in a chamois and jersey, I would ride a lot less than I do. Sometimes I even ride without a helmet. (GASP!) Yep! And it is awesome.....

Anyway, the less barriers to getting on the bike the better, I think. Yeah.......I think I may be mashing flats a lot out on the gravel this year. At least to start out with. We'll see where it goes.......