Thursday, July 20, 2017

Transformation

Velocity rim/hub on lower left- Bontrager rim/Velocity hub upper right
Okay, so back a few years ago I heard that Challenge Tires were going to make a big, fat tubular for gravel riding. In fact, they asked me if I'd try out a pair if they made them. Since I am all about tires, of course, I said "yes".

Trouble was that I did not have a tubular wheel set. That's kind of a problem if you want tubular tires. So, something had to be done!

That "something" was fulfilled by Velocity USA and they set me up with a Major Tom Disc wheel set. Disc because.....oh, I don't know. I figured that would be the coming thing then. I was mostly right about that part!  So, anyway, here I was, all set for some fat tubular gravel tire action. I was told that the ride quality would be amazing, and I still do not doubt that it would be the case. I was also told that there would be a new, pressure sensitive tape which would make gluing up tubulars a thing of the past. I was stoked about it all. So, I waited, and waited.....and waited........

And it never happened. Those wheels hung in the Lab for years.....no tubulars. I looked in to buying some to just give the idea a try out. Gulp! Fat, quality tubulars exist, but my goodness......... No, I wasn't going to pay that price for an experiment that, in all reality, not many people would have benefited from, and I wasn't that curious. So, what the heck! I had these wheels that were no good to me.

I tried selling them, but to no avail. So, I came up with this crazy idea to "spoke over" some compatible rim to this wheel set, freeing me from tubular prison. I looked at the wheels and they were 24 spoke count wheels?!! Uggh! That made finding a good rim candidate a lot harder. As did the ERD for the Major Tom, which is larger than many rims in the 700c category for disc use. 

Finally, I came across some close out Bontrager Scandium rims which would work. So, they were rim brake rims. Ahh.......at this point, I didn't care. I got them and the process of swapping the rims out is complete now. Wheels transformed! Now I can actually make use of them. They are TLR, meaning the rims are designed to use the excellent Bontrager tubeless rim strip, so that will be getting installed soon along with tubeless valve stems. I was pretty happy that the wheels ended up weighing 1600 grams on the dot. Not bad at all.

Now, the wheel with the silver rim pictured above is not the "before", tubular wheel. It is a completely different wheel  from a set I just bought from a co-worker. That wheel set is going to go on the rebuild of my original Inbred 29"er. So, stay tuned for that.....


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Blame It On The Bottom Bracket

The lowly bottom bracket. This one is a thread together PF replacement by Wheels Manufacturing
Many of you know that I have been a bicycle mechanic for a long time. Just about 20 years now, and I also was a car mechanic for 5 1/2 years as well. I really like working with my hands for a living.

That said, in all my bicycle mechanic years, I would have to say that the lowly bottom bracket gets blamed for everything. Especially noises. Those always seem to come from the bottom bracket! 

Okay, before I go on let me say that I know not all noises come from the bottom bracket, and so do many of you. I speak as one who works retail. In that world, bottom brackets do get blamed for an awful lot of things that they shouldn't be blamed for. It's kind of like the proverbial saying where someone has a little bit of knowledge and then is "dangerous" with it.

Besides being blamed for all sorts of creaks and groans, some of which bottom brackets are to blame for, these components get blamed all the time for not conforming to "standards". I think what many folks get bent out of shape about is the seemingly never ending parade of different, competing bottom bracket styles. You have your Press Fit 30, Press Fit 41, Outboard Bearing cup, BB 30, fat bike, Press Fit 121, GXP, Shimano 24mm, BBright, and who knows what else. That seems absurd, but you really have no idea what absurd was concerning bottom brackets unless you go back about 30 years.

Remember these clunkers? This was actually pitched as a "standard" everyone should use!
I laugh at the complainers today when I think about the machinists cabinet we used to have to look through to match up spindles. There were about seven rows eight drawers across filled with different ones. Then you had to match up the cup threading. It could be English, French, Swiss, or Italian. Then you had a different taper for Campagnolo compatible square taper bottom brackets too. Then you either had bearings in a cage, or you packed in loose ball bearings in a few different grade choices. Oh yeah......and you had to choose your grease. Then you had to have the correct tools to install the cups, but wait! Did you chase the threads and face the shell first?

Yeah....bottom bracket standards. Those were the days, right?

I also remember a time when "The Industry" was trying to standardize the bottom bracket without Shimano. There was a bottom bracket which was an alternative to Shimano's "Octalink" cartridge bottom brackets that was going to sweep the industry and everybody would be using them. It was the ISIS style bottom bracket, developed as an "open standard" so there were no patents to observe or licensing fees to pay to utilize the design. There were only going to be three spindle lengths in three bottom bracket shell sizes. Simplified bliss! We would all cheer for joy because bottom brackets had finally been standardized!

Except that one niggling detail- they sucked at actually working for very long. 

Yeah....that's a problem. So then we all forgot about trying to unify the competing bottom bracket factions under one style to rule them all, and now we have all these wonderful choices.

Choices are good.......right?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I Am A Road Rider

This is a road. I like roads like this to ride bicycles on.
I was made aware of this post about "never riding a road bike on the road again". I took a gander, and you know what? I kind of took issue with the post, but maybe not for the reasons you might think.

First of all, I am a road rider. My roads just are not paved. Small technicality, but one many people make a big distinction on. I know that I have been a big advocate of riding gravel, but I have been careful about not saying anything about it being a completely different discipline in the general sense, because in my mind, it isn't.

Now, the manufacturers will tell you it is different, and the cycling media heavyweights will definitely poo-poo the idea that I am a "road cyclist". They have condescendingly called what I do "groad" riding and people that do it "groadies", as if it is something to be laughed at or sneered about. And whether that is actually true or not, that is the vibe that these editors and writers put out there.

I call it "gravel grinding, because, ironically, that's what the old roadies that trained on gravel called it before me. But the media wonks don't want to hear about that. They had to come up with a dumber sounding name themselves for it, and they succeeded, I might add. What a stupid term for road riding.

Anyway....

This is a road bike. It is pictured on a road.
The point is that the story I referenced at the top says that road riding is too dangerous. Well, yeah.......if you ride where the traffic is heavy, or fast, it is. However; we have 70,000 plus miles,  just in Iowa, of roads that are not paved. These roads have almost no traffic. These are the roads I enjoy riding all the time without fearing for my life. These are the roads I ride where I do not get buzzed by cars going 60 plus miles an hour. These are the roads where car traffic, when I do encounter it, often slows down and pulls off to the side of the road to give me more than three feet. Heck, most of the time the drivers actually wave a friendly wave at me. 

So, my question is, "Why would I want to ride on paved roads anymore?" The answer is, I do not. Because I have a resource right outside my city limits that affords me the opportunity to ride all day long and see only a handful of cars, if I see any at all. 

I can also see things I would not ever see on paved road rides. I see remote, rustic farms, animals- both wild and domesticated- and I see landmarks and natural features I'd never see on paved rides. I can ride all day by myself, or if I ride with a friend, they can ride beside me and no one gets angry about it.

That said, I did agree with the author of the tagged post above that cars are too easy to drive. Combine that with the last decade of increasingly self-absorbed cell phone usage, and you get a dangerous stew. Cyclists are not the only ones suffering from the collateral damage caused by this phenomenon. Pedestrians and other motorists are also in harms way of the "distracted driver". While some things are being done about it, and more sweeping measures should be taken, I, in the meantime, will not be found on paved roads unless it is for my commute to work.

That isn't to say riding gravel roads is completely safe from motorist doing harm to you as a cyclist. (Ask me how I know.) But I'll gladly take the odds for being hit on gravel or dirt roads against riding on paved black top roads and highways any day.

Monday, July 17, 2017

GTDRI '17: Update- Some Recon

 I'd never seen a heli crop dusting till Saturday, and then I saw two on the same day!
Saturday I got out for a partial recon of the GTDRI route. My route has a road in it which I had never been on and which looked rather suspicious. It had a lot of Level B Maintenance sections, creeks running across it, and it was in the most remote part of Tama County there is. After having been bombing around the countryside since 2004 doing recon for gravel events, I have picked up a few tips on what to look for on a map when it comes to problems, and O Avenue had all the hallmarks of a road that had closures. Never mind that the DOT map showed that it all was there. That doesn't guarantee anything.

So, my goal was to ride to the start of where the route picks up O Avenue and run it through to see if we can use it, or if I would have to do a reroute. Of course, O Avenue is a long way from the house, so this wasn't a small undertaking. I chose the Fargo Gen I as my ride since it carries so much water and has meatier tires which deal with loose gravel better. With a beautiful day on tap, I had nothing holding me back from doing the trip.

I had loaded up the Fargo the evening before and I was out of the house by 8:30-ish, which wasn't too bad. I figured this trip at about 70-75 miles, depending upon what I found.

Fortunately, there were no workers at this site to say "no". I rode across.
I had a few maps, mostly to help me navigate around Wolf Creek and Twelve Mile Creek since the roads don't go across these rivers in many spots. I ended up choosing 130th Street in Tama County to cross Westward over to P Avenue which would eventually get me to O Avenue. There wasn't too much loose, deep gravel going this way, and the Southerly wind wasn't blasting me in the face. The going wasn't bad then. However; I passed a blown over road sign which looked all the world like a road closed sign. Dang it! Would 130th be closed? I had a sneaking suspicion I may be backtracking a few miles.

As it turned out, there was a new bridge being built, and fortunately, the new decking was already poured. I walked around the barriers and rode across, being very careful not to run over something sharp. The deck of the bridge was a complete mess of construction debris. No workers were there to say "no", so I scooted by and didn't look back. That was one check avoided!

P Avenue, looking South, just North of Traer, Iowa.
The low water crossing of Wolf Creek just West of Traer, Iowa on O Avenue.
Eventually I reached O Avenue, but North of where we will be getting on it. I wanted to check out the low water crossing of the Wolf Creek which is one of my favorite stretches of Level B Maintenance Road anywhere. I just think it is pretty odd that such a wide, vigorous creek is crossed in such a manner. Usually this sort of thing is reserved for much smaller, narrower creeks.

Then it was on to HWY 63, a bit of a jig-a-jog to the West to get to O Avenue's run South of HWY 63, and then on to five miles of Level B Maintenance road. Interestingly, all the Google generated maps have this first mile South of 63 listed as "Level E Road", which is very odd. Anyway,it is, in fact, signed "O Avenue", and it is black earth for about two straight miles.

Our GTDRI route joins this from the East a mile in on 190th Street. Then the GTDRI route will turn left and go straight South for several miles. Or that is what I was expecting. Following are several shots of the dirt roads on this stretch of the route.

This is after the black earth section and is mostly clay here. 
Then in the next mile O Avenue deteriorates into this grassy two-track. Note the dogleg in the road.
This interesting intersection leads out of the two-track.
The 4th, and last mile on O Avenue we will see of Level B, runs back into a grassy two-track before it turns back to gravel.
Unfortunately, I found out with a mile and a half to go on O Avenue that there road ends in a dead end. Actually, I wasn't surprised by this from the looks of the maps I'd seen. So, once again, it is always best to verify maps. They often are not correct, especially in rural areas. Now I'll have to do some rerouting....

But first, I needed to get back home, so of course, I rode all those rad dirt roads backward to Traer! Then I got off at the convenience store to resupply. I had a grilled chicken sandwich too. Then I took off again. By this time, it was getting really hot, and I was traveling with the wind, so there was essentially no cooling going on from the air. I felt like I was baking in an oven.

I helped escort this turtle off the road near TF Clark Park North of Traer.
I ended up stopping to cool off four different times. Fortunately, I had lots of water and a few times I used it to pour over my head and back of my neck to cool myself down. It didn't help that the night before was a bad night of sleep for me either. A couple of the times I pulled over it was to try to catch a power nap so I could continue!

I had a chance meeting on the way home with a gentleman who was mowing his ditch. He sort of looked at me with a quizzical look that indicated that he'd like to have a word with me, so I pulled over, he shut down the mower, and we chatted. At one point, he asked me if I knew anything about this, "....whatchamacallit.......gravel road.......a race......something about a hundred miles or......do you know anything about that?"

I said, "Was it "300 Miles of Gravel"? Was it on PBS?"

He indicated that, yeah, he thought that was probably it. Then I told him, "Yeah, well I'm the guy that puts that race on."

You'd have thunk he met a celebrity.

Well, after that I rolled down the road about a quarter mile and collapsed under a tree for half an hour resting. Not very glamorous! Ha! But.....effective. I was able to limp it on home and I ended up with 69 miles on the day. I can say that I am definitely NOT ready for the GTDRI. Looks like I've got my work cut out for me. And I have to reroute the course.

Stay tuned.......

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Barns For Jason: The O Avenue Edition

Yesterday I did a recon of the proposed GTDRI course, mostly on O Avenue in Tama County. Here are some barns I saw, again in no particular order.


Look for my recon report on this portion of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational tomorrow.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 28

Huh...... The neighbor's privacy fence sure looked a lot nicer ten years ago!
Ten years ago this week on the blog I got this review set of wheels for Twenty Nine Inches. I noted when I researched this that I mentioned that only one set of tires were recommended to be used on these. 

One. Think about that.  

Now 29"er tires are a dime a dozen. Back then the selection could be recited from memory, the list was that short. These wheels were tubeless compatible as well, so the one set Mavic recommended, the Hutchinson Python, was actually a tubeless ready tire. So that was at least some progress. 

Ten years ago I also sold the Haro Mary I had received as "payment" for doing the Haro Mary catalog copy, which I had written the previous year. Like an idiot, I ordered a size medium, and that did not fit me at all. So, I sold it to a guy that moved to Kansas City and I never saw that bike again. I also, by this time, had probably sold my Raleigh XXIX single speed for similar reasons. I got a size medium. Lesson learned back then. I was a size Large in 29"er wheeled bicycles. 

I also noted something I had written ten years ago that relates to my "Views On Singletrack" post I wrote just last Wednesday. Here is a quote from that post entitled "Riding In The Jungle"

 "Man! It's like riding in the jungle!"

That's Captain Bob's exclamation there from yesterday afternoons ride in the GW. (That's George Wyth State Park for you non-locals) Yeah, it's high summer in Iowa and the vegetation is at it's peak right about now. Tree branches full of leaves hanging down, slapping you in the face as you speed along. Weeds with itchy oily secretions making it burn! Nice thorny scratches across your shin bones. Yep! It's a jungle out there all right!

Things have changed a bit in ten years..........

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday News And Views

They kind of look like driving gloves, no?
Classy Mitts:

I talked a bit about these leather cycling gloves by Recovered Cycling last week. Well, I've worn them everyday since then and I have posted my review here on RidingGravel.com.

These gloves are pretty nice, as you might surmise from my review, but what is more, I haven't had any problems with my hands going numb since I started wearing them. I alluded to the fact that these gloves take on the shape of your anatomy, so that is probably why they feel so awesome to me. If you think about it, almost any good leather item does this. Shoes, baseball mitts, and leather saddles for cycling and horseback riding come to mind here. So, maybe this is why they work so well for me.

I almost feel like they are too classy though. I mean, maybe for an eroica type, old bicycle ride where they don't allow any modern stuff to be used or worn they might be right. I don't know, I don't keep track of that closely.  But I almost feel silly wearing them on a gravel ride. Maybe I should use cut off chore gloves! Then I might feel a bit more like I fit in. Ha! Anyway, they sure do feel good, so I'll just forget about the looks.

100th anniversary Silca "Pista" pump
Silca Turns 100:

Back when I was a younger shop rat, and I was at my first shop gig, my old boss, Tom, was always telling me about the old cycling traditions and stories. He was really in to all the old European racing things and knew a bunch of stuff that I never did catch on to. Well, one of the things he made sure I understood was the Italian company, Silca, and its place in cycling history.

In fact, I bought a Silca Pista pump in the 90's, a sky blue one, from Tom before I even worked for him. I still have it, and I will likely never get rid of it due to Tom's influence on me. While it represents a tradition that goes back to the 40's, (the Pista first came out in 1940), it was a clunky thing to use and store. It always falls over, and the handle is far too short to get both hands on to pump with the thing. Did I mention that it falls over a lot?

So, Silca is now an American company and they just reintroduced this pump with some updates. Too bad they had to stick to much of the form factor this pump has had for 80 years. It's cool and all, but for $125.00, it isn't that cool. Plus, it still looks unstable with that narrow footprint. Oddly enough, you can probably pick up a used original one, rebuild it as good as new, (all the parts are still available), and have a relic'ed pump which would really exude the traditions of the past for a lot less than this "updated one". And it probably will fall over a lot. Just so you know.....

Or you could get their flagship, $450.00 floor pump. It's maybe the best floor pump you'll never buy because........ that's crazy money for a floor pump! At least it has a better, more stable base. So, maybe it isn't so crazy. I will let others find out about that....... Meanwhile, I have a sky blue Silca Pista floor pump I have to fix since I chucked it across the home shop floor and busted the gauge on it in a fit of rage when it wouldn't stand up right for me. Dang thing anyway..........

GTDRI Update: 

Since rain has been coming at the exact worst times for me to recon this route, I have been pretty quiet about the ride so far. However; I am hopeful that tomorrow I will get a significant portion of the route ridden.

If that doesn't happen, for whatever reason, I am resorting to a drive through of the route to get this done before I run out of time. Either way, a recon report with images should be forthcoming and then I can publish the gps files for the route.

It was suggested to me that the Broad Street Brewing Company doesn't really have anything much for food. What! Beer isn't food! Anyway, there is a convenience store and a restaurant in the city should someone be so famished afterward that they simply cannot go on without solid foods. Most GTDRI's have not finished at restaurants, just to be clear, so this is a tradition I am upholding here!

So, I thought I'd throw that out there just in case anyone was wondering about food. Any other questions? Hit the comments here with those. The updates will also appear on the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational site, so keep your eyes peeled.

Okay, that's it for this week. The Summer is slipping away, so get out there and get some!