Thursday, March 23, 2017

Shocking News And Husky Rubber

A Rock Shox Judy?! Yes, a new Judy is coming soon.
Blast From The Past- Only New!

 What better way to kick off a "Throwback Thursday" than to talk about yesterday's news that a new Rock Shox Judy will become available as an aftermarket and OEM suspension fork for 27.5" and 29" bikes. SRAM marketing mentions something about "entry level" bikes getting this nicer fork, so take that under advisement. It seems that it has decent features, and with the 29" Boost version, you can go with 27.5+ tires.

Of course, all of this Judy gab is really a distraction since Rock Shox also announced several updates throughout their fork line up. You can catch up, if you care to, by checking in with our UK based dirt heads here.

There is an irony here since the Judy is not being offered in its original 26" wheel format. Of course, the 26"er forks have been relegated to sub-standard status by most of the industry and it has been that way for a few years now. You could say that 27.5 is the new twentysix. I've held that theory for several years now. It worked to drop 26" and make everyone that wanted/needed an upgrade to go to 27.5", but now that ruse is over, and it seems that the industry is fishing around for other ways to get your dollars sucked out of your bank accounts. 27.5+ seems to be where that wagon is hitched right now because there was zero mentions of 29+ in the article I saw. Maybe that's an announcement for Sea Otter......

29 X Husky. (Image courtesy of Team Dicky's Facebook page)
Call it Husky:

 First there were 29"er tires, then this whole thing went nuts with fat bikes, "Plus" sized 29"er tires, and 27.5+ stuff. I'd heard rumors that a category of 29"er rubber was going to be made in that empty space between current 2.5" tires and 3.0", "plus" sized 29"er tires. Well, it seems that 2.6" is the size we will see first and Maxxis is showing a tire at the current Tapei Bike Show happening now. There will be a lot more of this sort of thing, so that begs the question: "What bikes will they fit and when will we be seeing them?".

Obviously there are already a few rigs out that are 29+ that this would work in, but I figure we will start seeing some real burly, front and full suspension bikes that utilize this size tire and will not be full on 29+ bikes. After having spent a lot of time looking into and riding on various 29"er tires over the years, it is plain to me that to make a tough tire that has decent knobs that won't wilt at the sight of rocks and what not, you are talking about adding a not insignificant amount of weight. This means that those flimsy Surly Knard 29 X 3.0's folks often slag on because they cannot handle rocks and things of that nature would weigh far over 1000 grams each if they did have a tougher casing. And that is without adding rubber tread blocks. This is why the Dirt Wizard is "undersized", because if it were a big casing with all that rubber on it the tire would weigh as much as many fat bike tires do.

I've believed all along that 29+ was just a bit "too much" in terms of dimensions and weight to become a very widely acceptable wheel/tire format. The numbers there will always be small. This new aim at making a tire with a 700c bead seat diameter and a 2.6" width has some legs, I think. It keeps all that weight and diameter in check, to a degree, and I think it is just enough to make it more appealing than full-on 29+ (three inches or larger) wheels and tires. I don't think 29 X 2.6 is "plus"sized, but maybe it is "husky"? Well, whatever it is, I like it. Eventually my Singular Buzzard will see that size tire on it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Something Old, Something Blue

It will get the job done.
Parts bin parts are sometimes a good thing, and then again sometimes they can be a curse. I mean, what the heck am I saving this stuff for? Then comes a day when you find that part that allows your build to continue forward and you think you are a genius for saving all that stuff.

Most of the time though, it is stupid and a burden. Of course, there are those bits one should never toss out, like good 8/9 speed derailleurs. I had this old 90's era XT derailleur hanging around and I decided to employ it once again for the rebuild of the custom rig I have here. You might remember the post about the chain rings from last week? Yeah, that bike build.

Anyway, I have found the derailleurs for the build. The front, a shiny top pull XT, is likely the one from the original Fargo. I'm not sure though. It had a clamp that fit the fillet brazed frame I am building up perfectly though, so whether it was from a Fargo or not, it was likely a steel framed mtb of some sort. Parts bin parts, ya know. Their origins are sometimes murky at best.

The rear derailleur, well, I think I know the story here and the blue, sealed bearing jockey wheels are my clue. I had a 1996 Diamondback V-Link Pro dual suspension bike and it was an XT equipped rig. I remember it had a raw aluminum/blue theme to its look. There were the blue grips and matching Panaracer Magic blue treaded tires. Not really blue rubber. It was so dark you almost could mistake it for black, but it was definitely blue.

At any rate, I decided to swap in more blue anodized bits and these jockey wheels would have been something I would have done back then. So, I think this rear derailleur was from that Diamondback V-Link Pro. Most likely, it was. Blue jockey wheels don't really go with the theme of this build, but the nostalgia for me carries the day and this will be the part I use. I suppose if I really am offended by the blue I can swap out to silver sealed bearing pulleys easily enough.

Oh! And I tracked down a set of 9spd bar end shifters, so I will be going with Gevenalle's Audax shifter/levers for shifting and braking duties. Stay tuned..........

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

650B Gravel Bikes: Are They Mountain Bikes Too?

The Twin Six Standard Rando now comes in 650B or 700c
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Okay, here we go folks. Just to reiterate, this is only my opinion.

The industry is making so-called "gravel bikes" which are dual-wheel size compatible. These are the "latest" thing now. The entire genre probably got its start with Open's "UP" model. Once that bike made a big splash it didn't seem to take long for others to follow suit. This is the gravel bike "du-jour" of 2017-18. Most will be made of carbon fiber, but I've seen aluminum and steel models too. Big, chunky carbon forks with through axles will be on the front, disc brakes all around, and typically these sport shorter chain stays to appeal to the roadies out there who think longer than 425mm chain stay lengths are "unresponsive".

There are a lot of announcements, but not much in the way of details, and even less in terms of ride reports. The one thing all of them tout is the ability to run a 2.1' X 650B mtb tire. This seems to be just "accepted" as being a "good thing" by all who have reported on these bikes. However; I don't think it is so much a feature as it is a marketing tool to get you hooked up to buy one.

Yes, I have tried it, as a matter of fact.
Before I get into that though, I will say that I do totally buy in to using a 650B wheel and a tire suitable to gravel riding, and for using that to actually ride gravel roads. What I have found is that there are certain benefits to running a light, supple, high volume tire tubeless on gravel roads with the 650B size. There are other benefits that 700c brings to the table that this 650B wheel size does not possess. But that said, both have their place.

While one could do whatever the heck they want, and run a heavier, knobbier tire and call it a gravel bike, I don't think this is what the marketers mean. I think what they mean is that your gravel bike can be a mountain bike. So, leaving the gravel stuff aside, let's take a look at what makes this a not such a great idea.

Okay, here's my take. When you eat steak at a restaurant, you could use a table knife to cut yourself a bite to chew. It is a knife after all, and why shouldn't you be able to use a knife for butter when eating steak? Well, I don't know about you, but when I eat steak, I like to use a steak knife. Just like when I mountain bike, I roll out a mountain bike, not some small wheeled, kinda knobby tired, drop bar bike. Why? Because one tool is better for the job than the other is, that is why.

Again, you can do whatever you want to do, but my point is that marketing these 650B/700c "gravel bikes" as do-it-all bikes that could be a mountain bike isn't reality. For someone, or two, or maybe three of you, yes. It will be that bike. For most folks that buy in to the idea, they won't be satisfied. They won't be satisfied because, if they have ridden a mountain bike, they will quickly realize that road-ish geometry and road bike positioning, which most of these bikes have, isn't an ideal solution for mountain biking.

So, I am totally not buying this malarkey about using these super-designed, gravelly bikes for mountain biking when they are the furthest thing from what reality in mountain biking is these days. Not for most people, it isn't reality.  Again, there are exceptions to every rule, I get that. But that said,  these 650B gravel bikes are not mountain bikes too.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Country Views '17: Where Eagles Fly

Riding the Great Plains looks easy, except you cannot see the wind here!
Saturday I planned on doing a longer ride. This would be the first planned longer ride since I have (mostly) recovered from a nasty head cold. My nose was still runny, but otherwise I felt fit and good to go. The weather was not ideal. The temperatures were in the mid-30's and the wind was stiff from the Northwest, but I have gear for that. No excuses!

The first order of the day was to get shorn. My hair was out of control since I did not feel that I should submit my barbers to the illnesses I experienced during January and February. So, this was the soonest I could get in. Last week I did recon, so that was out. Anyway......

I didn't get headed out until after the hair cut and some lunch. Before that I changed something  on the Raleigh Tamland Two. I had gotten a hold of a WTB Pure V saddle from my friend Tony, who I believe got it when he purchased his used Fargo. At any rate, this replaced a fizik saddle that was okay, but it never really felt good. I knew that Pure V's were good on drop bar bikes like the Tamland because I use one on my Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" bike and I love it. So, I figured why fight it by trying anything else, and so I just decided to go with this Pure V for the Tamland.

I also popped on my Lezyne Super GPS and my FitBit watch and set both to track my ride. Okay.......gizmos. Bah! I get why some folks dig them, but for me they are an extra layer of complexity that tell me precisely what I already kind of know anyway. It isn't that hard to figure out how many miles you have ridden and in what time if you think about that with the natural gizmo you were provided with at birth. But maybe I expect too much........

The Tamland Two with the WTB Pure V now mounted.
So since the wind was out of the Northwest I decided to do a loop that took me East and then North out of town. It is a loop I generally never use unless it is early in the Spring. This is due to the fact that it starts out with miles of flat- really flat- terrain. It is good when you aren't sure where you are at with fitness and you just want to get some miles in. On Saturday, the opening stretches were with the mighty tailwind, so it was fairly easy to get settled in before I had to get working and go North.

There was a stretch which was flanked on the South side by very tall Evergreen trees. I happened to notice something moving high up in the sky, coming from behind these trees. It was a magnificent Bald Eagle, soaring across my path diagonally. I thought that was really cool, and my eyes tracked it as it moved to the Northeast, seemingly untouched by the winds which were strong then. Suddenly, I noticed the Bald Eagle had company!

At first I only saw one......
But there were seven in all.
There ended up being seven of them in all. Bald Eagles are not rare by any stretch these days, but it is odd to see them in such numbers in mostly dry, flat territory. I've seen the odd single eagle sitting in an open field at times, but this was a spectacle that I was blessed to be treated to. After a bit of marveling at them, I decided I had better push on.

Here is where I turned North, on Pilot Grove Road.
I turned North and into the head wind on Pilot Grove Road. Thanks to my friend Tony, who lent me a book on early Native American, Pioneer, and settler's trails in the area, I know now that Pilot Grove Road got its name because at the time of the first settlers coming to this area, there was a Native American trail that cut Northwestward through here that used an isolated grove of trees as a "pilot", or guide", to navigate the wide open grasslands of the day.

Of course, no one knows exactly where the grove was, but as I turned North, I would like to think it was along Poyner Creek in that hollow off in the distance where trees line the waterway to this day. I have done some other research into the area, but nothing has turned up and I may never know for certain where the old grove once was.

The last remnants of snow lining the ditch looking South on Pilot Grove Road
The wind was giving no quarter and I was working the bike hard to maintain 10mph. Of course, you cannot hear anything but the roaring of the wind when you are headed directly into it, or nearly so. This is another thing one has to train for because I feel that this wind noise is a natural deterrent to your mental drive to carry on. It wears on you mentally, and it is easy to let yourself get discouraged by that noise. I try to think about other stuff and it works, mostly. That is until your legs ache and belly aches to the point that you must stop to address those needs. That I did. A flattened banana and some water to wash it down and I felt a lot better. Then it was off Westward on East Bennington Road.

I had a plan at this point to tack the wind by going a mile West, then a mile North, and so on till I reached the county line. However, a turn North on Ordaway Road led me to a "T" intersection with a busy paved county road. Bah! A mile West and an intersection with another paved road! Okay, back South to Bennington then, and off West once more. No more pavement!

Crossing Crane Creek on Bennington Road.
Okay, now I was headed back into familiar territory once again. The way Westward didn't seem as arduous as it had been going North, so this was good, although my legs were barking at me. I knew the truncated course and plan was probably going to work out for the best on this day. Too much too soon and I would run the risk of getting sick all over again.

Oh yeah, I found another country church. St. Francis Catholic Church on East Airline Road, just off Pilot Grove Road.
This dike and emergency spillway are a flood protection for North Waterloo. Located near Moline Road and Airline Road intersections.
The Pure V saddle worked great because I never noticed it at all during the almost three hour ride. So, I think I have finally arrived at the two saddles I can ride on gravel bikes now- WTB Pure V and Brooks Cambium C-17's. That took long enough to figure out!

Hopefully this will make for a good base to get up to speed to do a metric century with my teammates for the Gent's Race on April 1st. I don't have much time!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: Notes On Cue Sheets

It is that time of year again for me to go over a few notes on the cue sheets and point you back to some previous posts that explain how I have done cue sheets since T.I.v8.

The first thing you will notice is that no one else does their cue sheets in this way that I am aware of. Most events that still don't cater to the "I gotta know the course ahead of time" crowd use the "tulip style" cues, which are fine, but I didn't have that format back in the day. The format I came across is what I have used since the early days of Trans Iowa and I have just refined it and made it a staple of the event.

While I am on the subject of courses and how many events do things, let me just say that "no- I won't offer GPS files and never will." That isn't at all what Trans Iowa is about. Unless you earn all the cue cards, or finish the event and have recorded it on your personal GPS unit, (which- yes- is allowed) there will be no record of the course in the future. For instance, there is no GPS of the T.I.v11 course, since the furthest anyone got was 128 miles that year. Yes, I have that course, and no, you cannot have it. I hope that is all clear.

Anyway..... Read THIS POST here about cue sheets and HIT THE LINK IN THAT POST! Between those two links you will learn 98% of what you need to know about the cues and how they work. THIS IS IMPORTANT! You must rely on the cue sheets to navigate, as there is no other way to follow the T.I.v13 course. Get this wrong and I guarantee you will get lost and not finish.

Important Note: I have decided that in order to streamline a couple of things, and to alleviate an issue we had with the finish last year, I am going to replace the "n/s" cue, (No Sign), with "Flagged". Here is what this means and what it does.

There are a few unsigned corners in this year's Trans Iowa. That isn't uncommon, so what I have done in the past is to use a stake with two neon yellow ribbons tied to it to mark the corner where you are to change direction. This will always be on the right hand side of the road nearest to the corner you are to turn at or where there may be a question as to which way to go. As a rider, you should then look left, right, or straight head. If you were to see a similar stake with two neon yellow ribbons on it on the right hand side of the road as you looked left, you would then turn left. This should agree with your cue sheet. Right hand turns would be indicated by a stake on the right hand side of the road to your right, and odd, "Y" corners, or anyplace where there is an unmarked directional change, would be marked in a similar manner.

All of these instances will have cues that line up with what the flags are telling you AND you will see "(Flagged)" on the cue at the end of that line. Here following is a sample cue:

123.6   R   On Switchback Ave (Flagged)

So, you will roll up at about 123 miles, see a stake on the right hand side of the road with two neon ribbons streaming off it in the wind, and then look to your right. There should be, at that corner, another stake with two ribbons up the road to your right on the right hand side of the road. That indicates that you have found the turn at 123.6 miles on Switchback Ave and you should turn right at that point.

Make sense?

There will be bike paths
 It should also be noted that in past Trans Iowas I have utilized bike paths where they made sense. This will be the case again in T.I.v13, so please be alert and pay attention to the cue sheets.

Since the paths generally are not marked with street signage at intersections, you will see the "Flagged" notation on the cues to alert you to where there is a change of direction that takes you on or off of a bike path.

Finally, the "Flagged" designation will alert you to look for a change in direction where there would normally be no street signage, as was the case at the end of T.I.v12, where the final run in came through the service parking lot of a cemetery. Since those stakes/ribbons are hard to see at night, a designation on the cue may have led to riders seeing them instead of missing them as they did in the case of our first two finishers.

The stake.ribbon/signage will all be gone over again at the Pre-Race Meat-Up, but I wanted to get this info out so that riders can consider it now and perhaps ask questions if they have any now.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 11

Since there were no pics ten years ago this week, you get to see my old Dos Niner again!
Ten years ago this week I was on Spring Break vacation with my family in El Paso Texas. I didn't have the access or skills to post on the road at that time, so I didn't post but twice that week and there were no images.

Can you imagine me missing three days in a row with no posts these days? Ha! That would be a weird thing such that if it were to happen some of you would likely start wondering what was wrong with me.

Well, at any rate, this was the week I first rode in El Paso Texas on the Franklin Mountain State Park's trails. It was quite the eye opener, for one thing. I had never ridden trails that were 100% rocks. Zero dirt- all rocks. They varied in size and consistency from gravel to boulders and everything in between. They were loose, shifty, and clinked in a weird way, except for when you were on bedrock. Obviously that wasn't loose. In the cracks, crevices, and in the finer rock grew all manner of prickly Chihuahuan desert flora. I even got spiked by some plant adjacent to the trail which went right through my Sidi mountain bike shoes.

I loved the desert riding even though it was super tough. I miss it too. I hope to get back there and ride again soon.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday News And Views

Looks like a regular ol' Jones Loop Bar, but the difference is inside.
Budget Version Loop Bar"

Jones Loop Bars, or as they were in the past, Jones H-Bars, were always a bit pricey. Especially when they were all made from titanium. I always wanted one, but never would pop for that much coin to get one. (Look at me now! A Carbon Loop Bar owner!) Anyway, Jones Bars are weird, and anytime you get into the "weird zone" with cycling components, people tend to get a bit skittish about spending a lot for an "unknown" benefit that may not be real for them.

Well, Jeff Jones realized this, I think, back when the whole licensing deal with Titec was in force. The Titec H-Bar sold well enough that I think it caused Jones to debut an aluminum version for his own company eventually. That bar is still over a hundred bones, so Jones found a way to get the Loop Bar well under $100.00. Now maybe you could afford to check out what all the fuss is about.

The way they did it was to use straight gauge tubing which adds weight but is cheaper to make. Otherwise it is the same Loop Bar in terms of strength, dimensions, and shape. The SG Loop Bar (SG = Straight Gauge), is $79.00 and available for pre-order from Jones Bikes now.

I like Jones Bars, and I am probably going to add a couple to some bikes here at Guitar Ted Productions. Stay tuned for that.......

Paul Components QR Seat Collar
Maybe This Should Have Been Called The Klamper?

Just in case you may have missed it, NAHBS, (North American Handmade Bike Show), just happened over the past weekend. There was this whole fuss about Peacock Groove's purple bike for Anna Schwinn, but other than that, the coolest thing, in my opinion, to come out of the Salt Lake City show was the Paul QR Seat Collar.

There used to be loads of "chi-chi" items one could buy for their mountain bikes back in the day. One of the bits you might have "upgraded" to some wild, CNC machined, anodized color was your seat collar. Many of these bits and baubles for bikes have disappeared. What is available is usually in the realm of customized urban, "hot rod" bicycles.

However; Paul Components still makes a few bits which are either direct from "back in the day" that never went away, or hearken back to such parts. The QR Seat Collar is one of the latter. It retains the cool, machined look of the old days with the modern style and functionality one would expect from a more mainstream component company. In other words, you get style that actually works. At least that's been my experience with other Paul Components parts.

For years the Salsa Cycles Lip-Lock seat binder was about the only cool seat QR you could get. So it is nice to see Paul Components offering such a classy yet flashy bit to adorn your sled with. Apparently, this seat collar is offered in purple! I better get on that...... MSRP is $53.00 USD.

Trans Iowa V12 News & Updates:

While I try to disseminate news and updates on the Trans Iowa site, I have found through the years that many times it is best to post stuff here. I can take more space here to get into details, for one thing. That and it seems that it boils down to the fact that as many places as I can post this information, the better chance it will have of reaching the intended audience.

So..... The Grinnell Steakhouse has confirmed the date we are to be using their facilities for the Pre-Race Meat-Up. This is the mandatory meeting place if you are riding in T.I.v13. The Meat-Up begins at 4:00pm and socializing and eating is encouraged until 6:30pm. Also- you have till 6:30pm to sign on. Miss this and you aren't riding in T.I.v13. DO NOT BE LATE!! About 7:00pm I'll conduct the meeting proper. By 8:00 we should all be outta there and trying to find our beds to get ready for the 4:00am start in front of Bikes To You in Grinnell.

T-shirt order is being finalized and sent in for printing. If you are reading this, and you didn't bother to respond to my post and e-mail I directed at you, and you are in T.I.v13, well guess what? You won't be getting a t-shirt, that's what. There aren't many of you, probably less than 20, but so be it. I cannot be arsed to track you down for a free t-shirt any longer.

More Trans Iowa news and details coming soon....

Have a great weekend and ride those bicycles, y'all!