Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Touring Series: The First Hundy Part 1

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, 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.

We pick things up where the ride had just started from Dewar Tap and left north on a quiet county blacktop.....


By the time we had gotten to the Wapsi Valley High School, about 10 to 15 miles in, I had an intense feeling come over me. Hunger! I was famished! So, I called for a stop and I ate most of Troy's dried fruit mix. Next trip I will have to remember to bring some "road food". As we quenched our hunger pangs, we looked around and noticed that it was very peaceful and quiet on this morning. There was nary a car on the roads, and the birds and animals must have still been sleeping. A dreary mist hung in the hollows of the fields. It promised to be a humid summer day, with a good stiff southerly wind. This was good! We were going north with the wind and the road was our own.

As we made our way across Highways 3 and 93, I thought about the hills to come. The gently rolling countryside had proven to be an easy challenge. I knew that greater hills lie before us and I wondered if I would be up to the task. Then my thoughts would be broken by a comment or a joyous whoop made by one of my companions. We could all ride side by side and converse. This made the miles slip away under our wheels.

We reached Lawler Iowa at mid-morning. There we stopped at a convenience store and had some refreshments and filled our water bottles. We would make many stops like this during the week. Generally we might find a bite to eat at one of these stops. Most often though we just had soda pop and Gatorade. We would hang out in the front of these stores, just sitting right on the ground in the parking lot.

This, of course, attracted a lot of attention. People generally would look askance and not give us so much as a "hello". Only children, as a rule, would be curious enough to talk to us. We obliged them and were amused by their curiosity. Sometimes they would even be enthusiastically supportive of what we were doing. There were no children at Lawler this morning; however, just disdainful looks and a bathroom to use. Steve bought some fake chewing tobacco that he cursed for its nasty taste, but he chewed it for the rest of the trip!

We got a little turned around here since we couldn't find the northward black top we were looking for. We finally figured out we had to go east out of town to find that road. Once we were on our way again, it became like before, quiet, an occasional car, but only now it was bright and sunny. It was getting hotter. I had ridden 40 miles now and I felt the miles coming harder. By the time we reached Protovin Corner, I was starving again. More munchies; Pop Tarts and water. We had gone over 50 miles and it was approaching the noon hour.

The next stretch between Protivin and Cresco is a county blacktop that receives as much or more traffic as a State Highway. This was my first experience with "true" highway riding. It also was more hilly. I did not know about drafting techniques. My climbing abilities were not developed yet either. So, I fell off the back often. I would grit it out and catch back up though. This ended up really draining me. After another convenience store stop in Cresco, we had another 12 miles to go to get to Lime Springs. Then another two miles downhill to the park. It was hot, very windy, and 12 o'clock noon when we left. Most of the last leg was in a crosswind, as we were obliged to go west. It was here that Troy broke the wind for me and began to teach me how to draft.

Those twelve miles took forever! I wasn't sure I could make it. Add in some major hills and I thought I was done for. I was in pain and I was cursing myself for being so dumb to think I could go on with this for a week! I thought these hills would be nothing compared to what lie ahead, so therefore I was toast. I was going to have to die because I was stupid enough to think I could do this. Perhaps it is hard to understand, but sometimes, just have to do what you have to do. I did, and somehow I made it. 

So, it might be good to remind you all that by the time I had reached Protovin Corner, I had ridden the longest ride I had ever ridden before in my life. My Mongoose All Mountain Pro had front and rear panniers, a sleeping bag, tent, and many heavy tools and replacement parts loaded on it. I'm pretty sure the entire bicycle and load weighed near 100lbs. I couldn't pick it up off the road!

Obviously I was burning calories at an unprecedented rate, thus the stops to abate my raging appetite. I probably ate more food that day than I had since being an adolescent. But more on that later.....

Next- The First Hundy Part 2

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 8

I got this Tomi cog handed off to me at Frostbike '08. Yes....I did actually purchase it!
Ten years ago on the blog here I posted one image all week. That was of this Tomi Cog. It bolts direct to a 6 bolt disc brake rotor mount so you don't have to worry about any issues with lock rings. Yes, you end up with no rear brake, but this is fixed gear people. And I don't ride in the mountains. One brake is really sufficient with the additional "back pressure" applied through the pedals.

My hope is to get this cog back on something here and start using it again. I think that it will go on the original bicycle I had it on, my '03 Karate Monkey, or perhaps on an On One Inbred frame I have that isn't being ridden at the moment. We will see. I am certainly in no hurry to get this done, obviously!

But other than that I was yakking quite a bit that week about Trans Iowa v4 stuff. Recon mostly, but there was banter about lights and how to set up accessories so they wouldn't get rattled off the bike by gravel. I also was stoked to reveal that we had Surly Bikes and Princeton Tec Lights on as sponsors for the fourth running of the event. Princeton Tec sent over some head lamps for volunteers to see with at night, and I still have those around here. I've made use of them in subsequent Trans Iowas. Thanks Princeton Tec!

What became this had its roots ten years ago on this blog
But a big turning point in things here began ten years ago when I posted the following on Thursday, February 21st, 2008:

"First up we have an idea. There seems to be a growing number of freaks putting on low key gravely adventures around these parts. My thought is that there might be a need for a clearing house of sorts. A place dedicated to gravel road rides only and a place where rides could be added that others could go to and check out....."

It wasn't long until I had posted a blogspot address and was compiling events so everyone could keep track of them. The first effort wasn't mine, and it wasn't the blogspot address I mentioned here, but soon afterward it was seen that the original effort wasn't going to be what I had envisioned so I did it myself. Anyway, by the end of the year I was well on my way to doing "Gravel Grinder News" and at the end of 2014 that was merged into The race/event calendar has survived along with those changes all these years.  

Also ten years ago this week I think I made the very first mention of an electric motor fitted to a bicycle which I promptly declared was not a bicycle. I think with ten years of perspective I would slightly modify that to say an e-bike is not bicycling. It is "something else". "Assisted", or whatever, but it is definitely not bicycling, nor can it ever impart the full bicycling experience. It is, at best, a poor facsimile of bicycling and at its worst, out and out motorcycling. 

Note- I have not said here that I am for or against these contraptions, I am just stating that anyone who engages in riding a two wheeled vehicle that, at minimum, assists them in powering the bike or more, is not riding with the same experience as a fully human powered bicycle. Those two experiences are different, and if they were not different, then why would there even be electrically assisted/powered two wheel vehicles? It's obvious that the e-powered experience is "easier"( ie: you are not fully powering the vehicle) and therefore vastly different than fully human powered two wheel travel.  


Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday News And Views

The new Niner "Steel Mountain Bike Fork".
Niner Announces Steel Fork, New Investor:

A couple of things came down the newswire this week concerning Niner Bikes. First off, we saw the introduction of their "Steel Mountain Bike Fork". Okay.......wait a minute.......

So, you mean to tell me that you can name a bicycle or part with a sensible, easily understood name that doesn't require some form of "inside knowledge" of some bizarre sport or niche band culture to understand the model name? Really?!!

Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest. Now, as for this fork........

The Steel Mountain Bike Fork uses Boost spacing , a tapered steer tube, and obviously, it has a through axle. Axle to crown measurement is 490mm and the offset is 51mm. It has mounting points for cages and racks and is rated to carry up to 45lbs. MSRP is $179.00. See more here.

Now what was I saying just yesterday about how straight steer tubes, quick releases, and axle spacing was going to change? Hmm.........

Next up in Niner news is that they were able to find an investment company to partner with which will now allow Niner to continue onward and have the cash to invest into R&D for future designs and products. Chris Sugai remains as head of Niner and all operations are to be continued as they are now. Good news and "good luck" to the Niner crew going forward.

Differences between through axle 142, Boost, and Super Boost hubs. Courtesy of Pivot Cycles.
 Your New Hub May Be Boost Or Super Sized!

Noticing a theme of ever changing component dimensions here lately? Well, it isn't going to end anytime soon, so best get used to it. Now the rumblings are that longer travel mountain bikes may all be going to an even wider than Boost rear hub, called "Super Boost".

This is really all a result of where we have been stuck in terms of over-lock dimensions for hubs for decades. Only recently has the "Pandora's Box" of hub width been opened and I believe the dust isn't going to settle on this for some time. Obviously fat bike hub width was the precursor to this madness and it showed that consumers are willing to entertain new ideas for bicycles based upon crank, hub, and drivetrain needs.

Way back when the decision was made to go from six to seven speeds, mountain bike manufacturers, and in particular, WTB, were calling for "symmetry" in rear wheels, which meant that the rear axle was going to have to be widened. WTB already was championing wider than 100mm front and 130mm rear hubs for mountain bikes based upon Charlie Cunningham's experimentation with hubs and wheel design. So, the concept of a wider hub has been there, it was just a matter of breaking that traditional thought regarding hubs that was holding everything back.

Now I don't for a minute think that this is staying on the mountain bike side. I believe that road will see an increase in hub widths in the coming years and going to through axles will be the way that the "tradition" is broken. Younger riders will be familiar with disc brakes, through axles, and hub widths won't matter at all to them if it makes the bike better handling and wheels stiffer.

 T.I.v14 Update:

The latest on Trans Iowa; Cues- So far I have two sectors covered in the formatting department with one to go. I should have the last sector formatted this weekend. That will get printed out into a final draft and that draft will be final checked in the field sometime in late March or early April. Weather will likely play a factor in when I get out to do that. It is interesting whenever I do formatting that I can visualize the course as I fill out the format. I also have found a few places where I deleted cues, added cues, or made some small changes based upon comments jotted down while we did recon last year. So, refining the cues is always something on my mind until I make the final commitment to print them in April.

I expect also to be sending out a communication to all participants starting this weekend. The e-mail will detail the schedule of events and lay out the procedure I plan to use for handing out cues the morning of the event. This will be very important, so be looking for that if you are in Trans Iowa coming into your inbox next week.

Number plates will begin to get worked up sometime in March or early April. I also have a plan in the works for some schwag for the racers that is in motion right now. I am getting assistance for that in an unlikely place which will be an interesting story to tell you all when I can. Stay tuned on that front.

That's all for this week. Keep the rubber side down and get out and ride folks!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Wee Bit Slickery

Those darker grey-ish areas? - STAY AWAY! It's ice!
The big melt we had going on with all the warmth, rain, and fog went to the deep freeze over night and that means one thing- Ice!

Since I missed out on riding to work two days in a row due to the inclement weather, I wasn't about to sit around all day Wednesday and watch it be Sunny outside without putting my butt on a bike. No matter how icy it might be!

So, with no real agenda in mind other than to stay upright and pedal, I chose the Blackborow DS, decided to take things slow, and went out to explore. I had no idea how far I could get, so I didn't know if I'd be home in five minutes or two hours. But I was gonna get a ride in!

The decision was made to try riding down the Sergeant Road trail Southwestward and then I hopped up onto the dike for the Black Hawk Creek to get a bird's eye view of the scene in the Green Belt. With all the rain and warmth we had I found a lot of ice and wherever people, snow mobiles, pets, or whatever had been on the snow previous to the recent weather it was very icy and hard not to slip out on it.  I actually had to stop a few times just to keep from going down, and I wasn't going fast at all. Eyeballing the Green Belt at these stops it was easy to see that traveling in the Green Belt won't be happening anytime soon.

There is a lot of frozen flood water in places in the Green Belt right now.
So, I decided to run the dike out to the Sergeant Road Trail again, then up to Martin Road, and back toward Irv Warren Golf Course. I went up by the Pro shop and noted that the parking lot had been plowed. Hmm..... If you cannot golf, why bother plowing the lot? Weird.

The "Oh So Pro" parking at the golf course wasn't being used, so I took advantage!
In a few places I was running on what was left of the snow for fun. Now this snow has seen upper 30"s and rain, so it was really crusty. The Lou's were making an awful racket if I sank in a little bit. Ultimate "ripping Styrofoam" sounds! Almost deafening, actually. By the way, I don't think the Lou's treads have ever been cleaner!

On the way home I ran into NY Roll. He invited me in his home for a beer. We yakked about bikes and how I was able to get Ella, his Ridgeback, to talk to me. Apparently she isn't very vocal. Maybe I have a way with dogs? Dunno......

It was great to get out and pedal, but this ice business is for the birds. Penguins, I'd say. Anyway, it has to go. Hopefully with the angle of the Sun getting better everyday this stuff won't be around too long. It's what? A month till Spring? A little over two months till Trans Iowa?

Yeah, Winter is just about done, I hope!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Welcome To The Dark Side

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 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?


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.