Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Randomonium

Who comes up with these names? Really? Image courtesy of Quarc
Randomonium- The Gizmo Edition:

There have been a few introductions lately that are mildly interesting. First up is this electronic device that monitors your suspension 1000 times per minute and then connects to a phone app to tell you how you should set up your suspension devices.

The device is from Quarc who do power meter stuff. So, it is likely based on technology they already were working with, accelerometers and whatnot. Anyway, it is another analyzing gizmo that you can drive yourself nuts with. I suppose for those who need to have every last advantage, it is a tool that makes sense.

Single speed your XD cassette driver. Image courtesy of QBP

Problem Solvers released this gizmo for single speeders that can turn your XD cassette body into a single speed ready set up. It is based on the IS standard brake mount (six bolt standard) which some fixed gear cogs have been released in. I have a "Tomi Cog" that uses this hole standard. Problem Solvers are also going to make a selection of cogs now using this bolt pattern.

The main body can be spaced with provided spacers to align the chain line so that your cog lines up with the chain ring. They are calling this gizmo the "Zinger".

Ya know, if you've already ditched off your front derailleur, because, ya know, who needs that device?!! Well......you may as well go all the way! Get rid of that dangly bit on the rear as well. Who needs 12 cogs out back? Eagle-schmeagle! Go with just one speed and mash!

I half jokingly made reference to getting a system for converting an XD driver to single speed use a while back, and now here it is. Crazy.

32T capacity now for WiFli eTap. Image courtesy of SRAM

eTap now has a mid-cage rear derailleur and capability to be set up for a low 32T rear cassette gear. That means we may see this stuff start showing up in the gravel races. Maybe.

That is if we see less failures. There is a lot of chatter out there saying eTap is locking up and leaving riders in the lurch. I'm seeing this on mechanic's boards on-line and seeing riders complaints about the issue.

I know many gravel riders are chattering about Di2 and that seems to be working well out on the gravel roads. I don't hear much about eTap. I am still waiting to see even one eTap group out in the wild yet. Meanwhile, FSA is set to bring out another electronic group, and Rotor is doing a hydraulically actuated one. Seems that the simple Bowden cable is under siege and may suffer somewhat from all of this gizmo action. But you can bet that cables and housings will be around for a long time yet.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Country Views '17: First Gravel

No snow, or anything green to be found just North of town.
This weekend I took advantage of the current situation to get out on the gravel again. It has been a while and it felt good to get back out there. Having been sick for almost a month to kick off the year didn't help any, but given that conditions pretty much were the worst for cycling that I could imagine, I wasn't too put out by having missed the month of January and part of February in terms of riding.

Now I am in rebuilding mode. I had to be careful not to be the "dog off the leash" and cook myself back into relapsing or injure myself with some stupid big, high mileage ride out of the gate. Although it was hard not to keep going, I reigned it in. It is especially hard when younger folks are out crushing big miles right now in this weather, but I have to be smart, not satisfying my desires and ego. The big rides will happen. I just have to make good decisions and be patient.

Okay, well- enough of that! I figured that it has been a while since I had done a "Country Views" post, and since I found something interesting to share this past weekend, I figured now would be a good time for these posts to kick in for 2017.

I didn't see any snow at all till I was nearly in Bremer County. 
I started out the ride with the temperatures in the upper 40's. It was supposed to get into the 60's, but I didn't know if my morning start would see me getting a chance to feel that out there. When I got up near Bremer County, I was cooking with my Bontrager wind jacket on, so I stopped to shed that layer and stow the jacket. Turns out that a wool long sleeved jersey and bib tights were enough. In fact, by the end of the ride I could have been riding in bib shorts.

What a beautiful day! This was far better than spending 8 hrs in a car driving to Minneapolis and back.
Traditionally, as we all know here in the Mid-West, it isn't like this in mid-February. Typically we are getting Alberta Clippers, snow, and we see an occasional dip below the zero degree mark during the month. In fact, traditionally I have shoveled more snow, living in this part of Iowa, than I do at any other time of Winter. So, when the shovels have set idle all month long and the temperatures soar into late March territory, you take advantage of that. There was no way I wasn't going to ride on Saturday.

The thing is, traditionally Frostbike happens right at this time as well. It used to be a "can't miss" event for me. However; as with anything else in life, things change, and now Frostbike is just a mildly interesting facet of the bike industry calendar. Anything that is "new" these days doesn't get introduced at a show. It gets "press released" whenever it is ready. So, almost anything noteworthy has already been revealed long before, (or as in the case of the Salsa Deadwood and Surly's Ogre, right before) the show. Going to see what is new is not a reason to go anymore.

I used to also go up to spend time with friends that have moved on to new things and are busy with the show proper. None of them would really have had the time these days to spend with me, so going for that reason is less of a reason to go now. Added to that is the fact that I would have to drive 8 hours minimum to be at a show for maybe 5 hours. That's a total of 13 hours shot when I could be riding in 60 plus degree weather and then grilling out and eating food with my family. So, that decision was a no-brainer.

A rare February "Barns for Jason" shot.
First cemetery gate shot of 2017- The gate reads "Pioneer 1864"
Now when I take off and ride North of Waterloo, I generally have to get up into Bremer County North of Highway 3 before I get into roads I am not all that familiar with. I don't expect to find much of anything that I don't know about already if I am South of Bremer County, as I was on Saturday. However; I surprised myself by discovering a mile section of road I have apparently not been on before. I noticed a cemetery gate on Gresham Road and stopped to see what it could be.

Ironically enough, it has a relatable story from today's headlines. That would be the poor treatment of immigrants. Check out the following closeup of the sign posted on the fence......


This was a new one on me. I know that there are many cemeteries in the rural areas of Iowa, but I figured I knew where most all of the prominent ones were in Black Hawk County. Guess that I didn't! So, good history to know and the first cemetery gate found during riding in 2017 that I haven't seen before.

Someone planted this little American Flag on the big rock of Big Rock Road. 
I turned and came home on Sage Road and back eventually to Waterloo. It was a good chunk of miles done at a good pace. My shoulder was fine until I hit pavement, then it ached. Weird. Well, at least I am getting the fitness headed in the right direction. That's a good thing! Stay tuned for more "Country Views 17" posts later on in Spring.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

When The Hammer Comes Down

No snow, 65+ degrees, and people are golfing. On February 18th!
So I was out riding gravel and thinking that I was just slightly overdressed.  I had a long sleeved wool jersey on and a base layer up top with a pair of bib tights on. Now this is mid February and I was originally thinking that this was so awesome. I mean, generally it is very snowy at this time of year, cold, and often we get these "Alberta Clippers". Those systems which dip us below zero for a night or two before we warm back up to the upper 20's/lower 30's in the daytime.

But this hasn't been the case at all during February 2017. It has been more like mid-March instead of February at all. The snow trails for fat biking have turned to ice and mush. Off road riding is off limits for the time being. It just got warm enough for the roadies to break out their rigs. Gravel roads are perfect right now. This is weird. Then it hit me.

Nature seeks balance.

So, I am thinking things are going to swing hard the other way in March. Talk about coming in like a lion. It's going to be cold, nasty, and windy. Mark my words. I am no weatherman, but I have noticed how things go often times.

Hopefully I am wrong, but I don't think I will be.........


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 7


Karate Monkey in '07 "perfection mode".
On the blog ten years ago I had plenty of images! Hooray! I think the deal was that I was not well versed yet in how to get files uploaded on Blogger, so until I figured that out and was comfortable with that, I went a few times without images. From this point on though, things like that seem to be rare, if not non-existent.

Anyway, here is a shot of my Karate Monkey from February of '07 right after Planet Bike sent me some Cascadia fenders for 29"ers. I mounted those up on my Monkey, which as I posted earlier this week, was dialed to perfection at that point for gravel travel. You can see the Cooks Brothers crank set and the disc brake set up which I no longer am using on this bike.

I was deep into getting bikes ridden and components tested at this time. I was fiddling with the XXIX+G, which I had the good sense to have sent to me in a size Large. The medium XXIX single speed was a medium, and it didn't fit as well, so that bike already was languishing in the basement unridden and would eventually get sold off later in '07, I believe it was. The Haro Mary was also a medium, but seemed to fit a little better. So that was still in play yet and I had wheels and tires being tested on that bike. Plus I had other pet project bikes I was dealing with which included a vintage 650B Raleigh mountain bike.

Another interesting development was that I had tried some DuMonde Tech lube at this point based off of an experience I had with Mike Curiak, who was using that lube at Trans Iowa v1. Later on when I told the DuMonde Tech rep about that, he contacted Mr. Curiak who then, (according to the DuMonde Tech guy) denied that he had ever used the stuff, or at least he couldn't remember ever having used it. Whatever. I saw what I saw, and it influenced me to try it. By the way, it was as good then as it is now. You should try it out too.

Now those are some REAL wagon wheels! Image courtesy of Ben Witt
Then also on the blog ten years ago- I was forwarded an image of what I thought was, (and very well could be), the first 36 inch wheeled mountain bike. It was a collaboration between Mike Pofahl and Ben Witt. Ben owned and operated Milltown Cycles then and Mike Pofahl is a custom frame builder from Northfield Minnesota.

In this image there is also a Salsa Cycles El Mariachi 29"er. You can see how those 36" wheels really dwarf the 29"ers!

This is the same 36"er which Ben had painted a maroon color later on. (Note- It is in a raw, unpainted state in this image and remained that way for several years) This is the very same bike I had here for several months on loan from Ben to use. I mostly did commuter rides on it. Oddly enough, it never did draw any attention as I rode it. People hardly noticed that it had gargantuan hoops.

Weird that.

Anyway, this bike caused quite a stir, and Ben and Mike later on collaborated on another version of this bike with some big improvements in the design. I reckon this first one is the stone that kicked off the entire 36"er bikes for off road niche as it stands today. I don't think Ben and Mike get any credit at all for doing this and being innovators. They should be recognized as such, in my opinion.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday News And Views

What looks like a Fox prototype shock could be a gravel specific design. (Image courtesy of Bike Radar)
Fox Shox Prototype Gravel Fork? 
 Riding gravel roads is akin, many times, to being on  a two wheeled version of a paint shaker. The jack hammering action of the handle bar is really bad with the current crop of ultra stiff, cyclo cross/road racing carbon fork designs being foisted as "gravel forks". So things like ISO speed decouplers and Lauf "forks", (I hesitate to call that visual assault to the eyes a fork), are things deemed necessary to ward off the incessant banging hands take on chunky gravel roads and rougher pavement. Let's not forget that Cannondale went on its own path, (again) with the Oliver Lefty fork for similar reasons.

Now I see that yesterday "Bike Radar" broke a story about a possible gravel fork from Fox Racing Shox. (See their story here) I won't get into the technicalities of such a device. Telescopic front suspension forks aren't anything new. What is most important about such a possibility is the ramifications of the shock's mere existence. If this is for real, you can expect a major sea change in the volume and intensity of the marketing behind the gravel/all road/adventure bike segment. I say this based upon what we can learn from the past.

Before Fox Shox made a fork for 29"ers, the entire segment of wagon wheelers was doomed to be nothing more than a small niche market. This despite the fact that Rock Shox made a token Reba 29"er fork to give the segment some legitimacy. Once the Fox Vanilla 29"er fork came about, the 29"er segment found its legs and the rest is history. The second conclusion we can draw here is that some big brand, or brands, are behind this.

We can assume this with some certainty since Fox doesn't make anything unless they get orders for a fork or rear shock. The fact that we are possibly seeing a prototype gives rise to the question of who (which brand or brands) might be pulling the trigger on a line of gravel/adventure bikes featuring front suspension.

It will be interesting to see if and when things come to light regarding this.

Near record breaking temperatures are forecast for this weekend.
Spring Break In February:

Winter is drunk. Winter is AWOL. In its wake we are forecast to have Spring-like temperatures for this weekend and into the beginning of next week.

Because of the odd-ball break in Winter's normal program, I am scheduling some gravel travel. I am back to 100% health-wise and I need to get a couple review items out and tested. Plus, who wouldn't want to ride in February in 60 plus degree weather? So, it is a no brainer. I am going riding tomorrow. Maybe Sunday too. Probably......

This weather obviously will not last, but considering that March is right around the corner, any return of Winter's snowy and cold blasts are sure to be short lived. I think we are due to "swing back" the other way too. Nature has a way of balancing things out, so I expect that March will come in like a lion, and we will have some nastiness to deal with the first half of the month. All the more reason to hit the gravel roads Saturday and Sunday.

Long. Black. Pimped.
Big Dummy Gets Stares:

The XR-1 Bontrager 2.4" whitewall tires have really brought a new level of inquisitiveness from the natives here. I think the use of the aluminized tape for a rim strip on the Northpaw rims doesn't hurt either. A little "chrome" bling to go with the blinding white sidewalls.

I actually have to really pay attention to people when I ride this bike, or I would miss a lot of the reactions. Like the guy who rolled down his window and leaned out to get a better look at me and the Big Dummy the other day. Or the people that rubberneck as they see me roll by. People that are definitely non-cyclists are even walking over to admire the weirdness that is my Big Dummy.

Anyway, those big puffy tires are really a boon to the ride of this bicycle. I get a much smoother ride and better stability. Traction, despite the small knobs, is far better, especially since I have the 47mm wide rims and lower air pressure capabilities as a result. The bike has been such a huge benefit to me in such a short amount of time that I can say without hesitation that it will be getting a lot more use this coming year once the weather straightens out.

And I suppose it will draw a lot of eyeballs and comments too.

That's all for this week. Have a great weekend and enjoy riding in this weather we have if you are in the Mid-West!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

RidingGravel.com Gear Pre-Order Opens

Okay, so here's the deal. I am a partner in RidingGravel.com and we sell some gear. There.....I said it.

Okay, so if you are down we have jerseys, bib shorts, vests, and leg and arm warmers. They come in two different versions, so pay attention when you click to the pre-order site HERE.

And......you have to decide soon. The pre-order lasts till February 24th, then we're sending in the order. You should see your gear Mid-March or so, is what I have been told.

So get in now, because we may not have this offer up again. There could be a limited amount of stuff later on, but do not count on that.

Thanks for checking the gear out!

The Green Monkey Era Begins

There she is! The Green Monkey.
I mentioned last week that I was going to "green up" my Karate Monkey and then I also mentioned that on Monday. The final piece to the puzzle arrived Tuesday and yesterday I got it all put together. The era of the Green Monkey begins now.

This has been a process that has been a long time in coming to this point. I feel pretty confident in saying now that "it is finished".

Again.

Let's hope this time I do not dismantle it and ruin what I had, like I did last time I had the Karate Monkey dialed to perfection. That said, this variation is actually a better one. There are a couple of reasons for that. One thing I should have done a long time ago and the other bit wasn't really a possibility until last year. Both things were critcal in making this version work and work better than before.

When I first got this Campstove Green Karate Monkey in 2003, I set it up with disc brakes, which at that time was a new technology for mountain biking. There was no way I was going to use cantilever brakes, even though they were a known quantity and the '03 Monkeys could accept them. Nope! Even though the cantilevers would be lighter, I wasn't going to do it. That led to frustrations.


I believe Homebrew Components is defunct now, but that is where I got these green anodized bits.
 Anytime I had to, or wanted to remove the rear wheel it was a half an hour ordeal. Loosen the caliper, move the chain tensioner, unbolt the axle, deal with the chain, then reverse the entire procedure when you wanted to reinstall the wheel. Good luck getting that brake caliper in the right spot! Especially out in the field. This time around, I went with rim brakes, and that takes away one step of the procedure. It has been a lot easier dealing with the rear wheel this way. I should have just bit the bullet and gone with some super cool linear pull brakes back then.

The other bit that made all the difference is the Velo Orange Cigne Stem. That has the On One Midge Bars right in the sweet spot. Before this stem, I could get close. I just had to put up with a bit of discomfort at times, but no more. This stem is exactly what I needed to run drop bars on the Karate Monkey.

Other than that, the last thing I needed to get to recreate the old "perfect" version of this bike was a longer crank. I used a 177.5mm Cook Brothers crankset on my original build. That accepts a 110 BCD type sprocket, and when I tried to remove the hidden fifth bolt and nut, it siezed up and I basically haven't gotten that separated ever since. So, I ended up selling a bike recently that had a 180mm White Industries crank set on it, which I kept. I just swapped that over with its green Homebrew Components 38T ring and also matched that with a 17 tooth cog from the same company. (I believe that company is no more, by the way.)

Yes- this is not the saddle I spoke of last Friday.
Finally, sharp eyed readers will notice that the Apple Green Brooks B-17 was not mentioned before, but I did say I had a green Brooks B-17 Special which had turned nearly black. Well, after last Friday's post went live, a regular reader here named Steven contacted me about the Apple Green Brooks he had and wanted to sell. He thought maybe I might like a truly green saddle better.

He was correct. So, a deal was struck and earlier this week the saddle arrived. I mounted it to my Ritchey post and took the Green Monkey for a spin. Everything felt perfect. It is one of those rare, happy bicycling moments when everything just falls to hand and you get that satisfying feeling. Well, I had that feeling and the Karate Monkey has not felt this good while riding since 2007. I am beyond happy with how it all turned out.

While there may be some adjustments, maybe a tire swap, or maybe newer wheels at some point, I don't see anything being changed out from this point forward. I am excited to get this out on gravel, and I know I can ride hours and hours on this thing now. It's gonna be good.

A short explanation about why this was torn apart back in the day now- Well, I have to credit this bike with getting me excited about 29"ers, and also about gravel road riding. I was riding this bike exclusively on gravel in the years 2006-2007. Then when I got entrenched in "Twenty Nine Inches.com", I had to pretty much forsake any gravel riding time for testing and reviewing mountain bike parts. Cue up the hours and hours spent at Camp Ingawanis, Ingawanis Woodlands, and Cedar Bend Park. Gravel was a rarity for me after '07.

So, the Monkey got pressed into commuter duties, but when after four years of Winter's muck and mire made the old UN series bottom bracket go "clunk", I found that the bottom bracket was seized up in the frame. This would have been around 2010. Then I didn't have the time nor gumption to get after that because I wouldn't be able to ride that bike much anyway.

But now things are different. No more mountain biking review duties, and all my focus is back again on gravel riding. Getting the Karate Monkey up and running again made sense now. So, there is your back story.

Now for some good times on the Green Monkey!


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Maybe We Need Wingnuts

There are probably some "wingnuts" out there that could find creative ways to screw these up too.
The ubiquitous quick release is probably one of the most misused components in cycling. Well.....maybe saddle bags are a close second. But those are accessories, not really a component. Yeah.....so quick releases it is. At least this is my observation from my repair stand.

There are a lot of lawyers that have made a lot of money from issues arising from failure to use quick release mechanisms properly. For instance, did you know that those dratted "lawyer tabs" found on everyone's front forks since the late 1980's were a result of a quick release issue? There are probably instances of the misuse of this clever invention by Tulio Campagnolo going back to Tulio's days. I think how the the "QR" works is definitely one of the hardest concepts for people to grasp today. I see all sorts of glazed eyes when I try to gently explain how these are to be used.

I thought that the through axle, as devised by Fox Shox and Shimano, would eventually be the device that would finally put the long in the tooth QR out to pasture. It was so simple to use, it was insane. Maybe DT Swiss' Ratcheting Skewer is actually better. Either one would have been okay with me. But noooooo! You have to license those designs and, of course, no one is going to want to do that. So now we have about ten different through axle styles and many of them really suck. They are so fiddly to use that all they end up doing is pissing you off.

So, getting a through axle standard for all bikes was not going to happen. What then? Hmm...... Maybe we need to just go back to the point when Tulio invented the infernal quick release thing and do what they were doing back then. We could use wingnuts.

Nah! They would probably find ways to screw that up too.