Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday News And Views

This is my office today.
Fargo Riders Reunion Ride:

So, by the time you get your cuppa joe and sit down to read this I will be pulling on my gear and getting ready to roll out in the crisp morning air for a ride I've been excited about for months now. The ride I have dubbed as the "Fargo Riders Reunion Ride'.  Now Jason, the ride coordinator and route finder,  may have another moniker for it, or none at all, but if he does, I'll use his name. Otherwise this is the working title, y'all!

I'm pretty excited to test out the Bar Yak System on a route that I have not much of a clue about. I doubt there will be much flat stuff, if memory serves, as I understand that we are going on a form of the old Rawland Route.  I attended and rode in one of those rides back when they were being held. However; I happen to know that there will be new stuff and some old stuff that is no longer available to ride. So, it will likely be mostly a new ride to me. I'm sure that with the company coming along for this one that it will be a fun time though. That much I do know!

Stay tuned for a ride report on Monday.

Could this be the ultimate big wheeled trail bike format?
Big Diameter, Wide Tires & Rims, Low Pressures = Ultimate Trail Bike? 

Last Friday I mentioned that the 27.5" X 4" (or "B-Fat) wheels have been something that was only a Trek deal, but one that now is being looked at by other brands. I said I felt there was probably something to all that bigger fat bike wheel stuff. Well, low and behold, but a fellow that has thinkered out every tenth of a millimeter when it comes to this has basically confirmed my suspicions with real world testing.

The man is named Mike Curiak, and he posted a great blog entry the other day detailing this very idea and its development path from a typical long travel 29"er to this full suspension "B-Fat" bike using microscopic detail and discernment. Like he says, it may not be for you, but when you read his take, it makes a lot of sense. These reasons he gives for the "B-Fat" wheel's excellent performance and feel on gnarly terrain are spot on.

Curiously, he gives a lot of love to the 29+ wheel for what it can do. I've only ever ridden two 29+ bikes I liked and both were Surlys. I tried my Mukluk as a 29+ but I just didn't feel the magic. I think the bike has to be a dedicated 29+ design or something about the geometry doesn't lay well with those ginormous hoops. I had a short stint on a Deadwood and felt similar feelings. Not quite there. Anywho.....

Give that link a click and read what Mike has to say about"B-Fat" and see what you think. Makes sense to my mind........

And that's a warp on the week. Get out and have some fun on two wheels this weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Year With Project 1 X 1

Project 1 X 1 almost a year after the work began.
The Surly 1 X 1 project I started almost a year ago now has been a smashing success. I should say that the date Saturday will be the actual day I announced it a year ago, but I'll be gone and I've got another post scheduled for that anyway. So, you get my overview a couple of days early.

I won't belabor the opinions I have already expressed. Most of that I published in April here. What I will say is that this bike has been a complete turnaround from what I had before I engaged in making the major changes to it that I did.

In a perfect world, this six time hand-me-down frame would have morphed into a 20" sized 1 X 1 when my former co-worker Brian gave it to me. That said, it works okay as is from a sizing standpoint. In fact, for the urban cruising I mostly do with it, the more upright riding position is better than a 20'er would provide. That said, this is the wrong size for me. At least from today's standards. maybe in a true 1990's sense, it fits. We rode odd set ups back then. I see old 1990's bikes much like I do old high school graduation photos of myself. I felt pretty good about my look back then, but in reality, I was full on dork mode. Yeah.....I said it. 1990's era mountain bikes were total dork-mobiles. Especially if you mixed purple ano with blue paint jobs. Sheesh! Ultra-dorky!

I said back in April that this was like having an adult BMX bike. I think that every time I ride it.  It is so nimble and twitchy it is dangerous, but fun. The other thing is that those danged Velo Orange hubs roll so freely that it makes every other bike I have feel like the brakes are dragging when I coast. This bike just flat out flies when coasting. Those are some really good hubs on there!

So, basically this simple, easy to maintain rig doesn't take much maintenance, is a bit on the dangerously twitchy side, and does what I wanted it for perfectly. The only thing I think I'll upgrade or change is the pedals. This cries out for a pair of Fixation Mesa MP's. I'll have to get a pair of those before the Winter comes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fargo Riders Reunion Ride

Gen I Fargo which was on the first Fargo Adventure Ride
Well, if you've ever read this blog for very long, you no doubt know about my love for the Salsa Cycles Fargo, and in particular, the "First Gen" model. I would like it very much if only for the fact that it fits me so perfectly. But that is not the only reason I really love this bike.

But before I rehash that, the reason for today's post is that I am taking my first Fargo back to the beginning, in a sense. A bit of a back story to explain.....

In 2008, I was very well aware that a bike with drop bars and 29 inch wheels was coming out from Salsa Cycles. I knew a bike that was similar to an El Mariachi was being made that would be tweaked to run mountain bike specific drop bars and that it would be a steel frame. I actually got to see the first rendering of the final production Fargo on my Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational in the Summer of 2008. Jason Boucher, then the head honcho of Salsa Cycles, came down and rode his pre-production Fargo with a piece of black electrical tape covering the then unknown name of this new model. We riders immediately dubbed the bike "Black Electrical Tape" since Jason was being so "Cagey McCagerson" about the actual model name.

Then in the Fall of '08, at Interbike, I got to test ride a Fargo on the Bootleg Canyon trails. It was an awesome experience, and the Fargo was one of the only bikes I ever rode there that I could clean every drop in on. I was duly impressed and when I got the invitation to come up to Salsa Cycles HQ in early November for a "Fargo demo ride", I immediately jumped at the chance.

A pic from Murphy Hanrehan trails on an early Fargo Adventure Ride
The ride happened out of the QBP headquarters and there were several QBP/Salsa folks on Fargos the likes of which you've never seen. Pre-prodution prototypes in bizarre colorways were on the ride, and the atmosphere was electric. The ride was one of those really memorable ones, where you ride over and beyond your skill set. It was also on the very day that Barack Obama was elected to be the first African American President of the United States of America.  Then, at the end of a most auspicious, beautiful, and awesome November day, I was able to take home a Fargo. Ostensibly it was a test/review bike for Twenty Nine Inches, but I kind of "borrowed it permanently". Whoops! 

Well, if the powers that be ever call it back, I would graciously comply with the demand, but after nearly ten years of abuse, I doubt it would prove to be a benefit to them at this point. Suffice it to say that I am eternally grateful every time I get to throw a leg over that rig. The people, times, and fit of the experience that is embodied in the 2008 Fargo I have will never be duplicated. So when a Fargo Riders Reunion Ride was proposed, I was on it like white on rice. I even forsook my entry to the inaugural Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra race for a chance to be on this ride with old friends and on bicycles we are fond of. That's how much I wanted to be on this ride. I will dearly miss being on a grand gravel ride devised by the inimitable Sarah Cooper, but I wouldn't miss this Fargo Riders Reunion Ride for anything.

A stop on that November '08 Fargo Adventure Ride
So, maybe now it might be more apparent why this particular bicycle is special to me. It is a reminder of all the Fargo Adventure Rides I was on. It is a reminder of all the epic failures on rides I have experienced from the Midnight Madness gravel ride to the Dirty Kanza 200. This is the bike I successfully rode on several GTDRI's and the bike on which I finally put all the miles of Gravel Worlds under my tires. It is the bike I have had some of my most meaningful experiences on. The one I have forged the most meaningful relationships with.

And this weekend I get to go back and do it all again. There will be a new route, new Fargo "Fargonauts", and old acquaintances and deeply missed friends. Who knows? It may be the last time this all happens. Jason Boucher and Ben Witt are behind all of this, and neither one is directly tied to Salsa anymore. It was a chance posting on Facebook that prompted the whole deal. I mean.........who could have predicted it?  No one. It is just a special one off that probably will never happen again, and it is a ride I am sure will conjure up many old memories on several of the riders parts.

So, today I am prepping the old Fargo for its homecoming of sorts. Yes.....this ride means a lot to me. Not just because of the bicycle, but because of the people this particular bike brings together. The ride happens on Friday. I'll have a full report coming up on Monday, October 31st. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tandem Update

Making a few changes and tuning it up.
I made the news known a few weeks back that I had obtained a tandem bicycle from a generous individual who reads the blog here. This bike's  purpose is to bring my reluctant daughter into the world of riding a bicycle. That is something the rest of the family would love to see, by the way, not just myself. Anyway, the litmus test would be if she was going to be able to deal with the concept and actually take a test ride with me as the captain.

Happily, I can report that she took to it alright. I cannot say she is super excited, but she's open to the experience. I think that showing her that she is safe and won't fail will be paramount to her future as a possible solo cyclist. That's waaaay down the road, but the foundation is being laid with this bicycle right here.

So, with that test passed I got the green light to modify the bike to work for us. I swapped out the bars, stem, and grips. Then I put on a different saddle on the stoker's post, but this may be a work in progress depending upon how my daughter adjusts to riding more. I also tuned up the derailleurs and flushed out the RapidFire shifter pods to get the pawls and springs freed up. I also adjusted up the brakes and replaced the front noodle for the linear pull brake with a good used one. Mechanically, it's in top notch shape now.

Well, I should flip the front wheel back around!

Other than that, we're ready for several short, acclimatization rides to get my daughter into some semblance of "cycling shape" so her body doesn't hate on her after a longer ride. I'll hopefully have some good updates on our progress as Fall continues. Stay tuned.......

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Four County Tour

The gravel was mostly pulverized by the recent harvest machine traffic.
Saturday I woke up kind of late, but I knew I wanted to ride. It was going to be a gorgeous Fall day, and missing out on something like a day like that was unacceptable. So, I decided I would do a modification on a route I did last year in the Fall which I enjoyed immensely. It covers ground in four different counties, and mapping it out is kind of a pain because of that. So then I thought, "Hey! Why not call it the "Four County Tour"?" So, I have.

I had ambitions for doing some big miles, but because I woke up late, that made me modify my plans even more. Still, it was a good long ride, and I will just have to work on a longer ride later. This day, I wasn't going to sweat that. It was just too good out to be negative. That said, not being negative for other reasons was tough. 

Sometimes we all have those days when we just are not feeling right on the bike. I was starting out having one of those days. I couldn't breathe the way I am accustomed to. I felt awkward pedaling. All these layers! They constrict you more than wearing next to nothing when it is warm. Well, since it was in the 40's when I started, I had to have on a jacket, a pair of knickers, and gloves. All little things, but taken in total, they were conspiring to bring my mind down. I just decided that I would take what the ride would give me and keep pedaling.Whatever happened would happen.

Harvesting is wrapping up in Iowa for the year.
A tiny rural cemetery on the border of Butler and Black Hawk Counties.
You know what? Things got better. I "warmed up", and so did the weather. I stripped off my gloves and coat about an hour after the start and I felt great. There was a light Southwest wind, which was not a factor, and not a cloud in the sky. This was about as perfect a day for cycling there can be. I was out there riding, and eventually, smiling.

I touched Grundy County after riding West through Black Hawk County. Then I turned North and West a bit to ride the border of Black Hawk County and Butler County, eventually turning into Butler County for a bit. The other interesting bit about this ride was that I crossed all the major tributaries of the Cedar River and the Cedar River itself on this loop. The first was Black Hawk Creek, then the next was Beaver Creek. In Butler County, I crossed the West Fork of the Cedar River on an old, iron bridge.

When you see a line of trees ahead in Iowa, you can bet a river runs through it!
I passed some virgin sand prairie at the Cedar Hills Sand Prairie reserve.
The old bridge over the West Fork of the Cedar River.
Riding up out of the West Fork's valley I kept climbing and climbing until I crossed county road C55 and then I topped out on a high stretch of ground with a view for miles. I decided to have a stop to eat a bite and take it all in. How could one not stop and enjoy this beauty, I have no idea.

Climbing up out of the West Fork's valley.

I could see the communities of Waverly and Janesville from this point, both of which were at least five miles from this spot. 
By this time I had reached Bremer County, and my fourth county on the ride. I also would be reaching the furthest North point of my loop. Soon I would stair step down Southeastward on gravel toward Janesville and on the way, I would cross the Shell Rock River. Before that, I would bag another rural cemetery. I have been stopping in front of various cemetery gates in rural areas to get my bike's image in front of those gates as a kind of way to celebrate these forgotten burial grounds.

I ran into some good sized hills up in Bremer County.
Formerly known as Waverly Junction Cemetery when Waverly Junction was a town.
I came down a big hill and rode by the former site of Waverly Junction down to cross the Shell Rock, and then on down past Barrick's Home. The Barrick name is synonymous with Janesville as it was a settler with that surname that founded the town. From there I rode across the Barrick Road pedestrian/bicycle bridge across the Cedar River on the site of the former Wagon Bridge.

The Fall colors are mostly muted this year. This outburst of orange was notable then.
Crossing the Cedar River at Janesville.
The dedication plaque for the bridge showing the former Wagon Bridge which used to be on this site.
I stopped in Janesville to resupply, having been out for three hours. With the "Orange Crush" rig only having three bottles on board, I needed that stop. I ran across an acquaintance at the convenience store who just about had to slap me to get my attention. Sorry! I was so used to being in my thoughts on the bike I was "spacing out" pretty badly!

I left Janesville and headed East and South to get back through Bremer County and in to Black Hawk again and finally to Waterloo.

I ran across this murder of crows sitting across the road and in both ditches. Weird!
A harvesting machine clearing up the last of the corn.
I made it over to St. Paul's Church on Gresham Road and Burton Avenue. The place looks different now that Fall is half done. Nothing like it did when things were still green during the last Geezer Ride, that's for sure. From there I went straight down Burton to Waterloo, finding out along the way that the small bridge before Dunkerton Road has been repaired/replaced.

St. Paul's Church from the West.
I haven't figured out how many miles I did on the Four County Tour, but it had to be around 50 or so. Whatever it turned out to be, I liked the route. I think I can tweak it out to go a bit into Grundy County and take in Zion Church as well. Maybe make a metric century route out of it.

I got home and took it easy the rest of the day. I then went on a family walk later on, which made me realize just how sore my legs were. I don't think I drank enough water. Oh well! At least I felt 100% better at the end of the ride, and day, than I had when I started out.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 42

A 2007 Fisher Paragon with an example of the first Fox 29'er fork made
Ten years ago on the blog I made a very simple, honest request and posted the following title to kick it off: "Mid-West 29"er Get Together In '07?"

Ya know how sometimes you look back at how you did some things and wished that you had followed your original intuitions? Or have you ever felt like you didn't stick to your guns and the vision got swooped up by others that didn't "get it" and everything went swirling down the proverbial toilet?


That's what happened to that idea I proposed back in 2006. I let others twist my original ideas, take them, and eventually make it so that the goals were impossible and I didn't put my foot down and say "no". I should have.

In the end, what was supposed to just be a fun, casual get together became a failed marketing ploy and got me into some hot water with some folks. I am as much to blame as anyone, because I let go of the reins and trusted others that shouldn't have been let in. That ended up deep sixing what became known as "The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo". I tried to redeem the thing in '09, but an early Winter storm and a family emergency balled up things.

 I got it. It was not meant to be.

I learned a lot though, and those lessons helped me to keep something else I was involved in on track, and helped me to get out of some things that were not where I wanted to go with grace and my dignity intact. Still, that one blog post in '06 really set a ball of crap rolling down hill that ended up becoming kind of a train wreck. There were good things, for sure. Good times, adventures, and relationships that were made and some maintained right up until today. Some cool 29"er stuff was shown and shared, like the first commercially available Fox 29"er forks. It was fun, but it wasn't what I would have done had I stuck to my guns.  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday News And Views

Crushing leaves with Elwood
Terrene Tires Elwood:

I just got a set of some new tires from another new tire brand named Terrene Tires. While you may not have have heard about this company you likely know one of the guys behind it. (Read about that HERE) These are tires being reviewed on, by the way.

Anyway, I have tested a ton of tires before going back to 2006. Add in all the tires I have mounted and dismounted in my 17 years plus of wrenching on bikes and you could say that I have a pretty good handle on what a good bicycle tire is. I bring this up becuase of all the tires I have personally handled, these Terrene Elwoods are the most luxurious feeling tires I have touched. They just feel awesome in the hand. Soft and smooth. Almost not like rubber at all.

I know that may sound weird, but I was just struck by this when  first touched them. Now I am finding out how they ride and so far..... Well, you'll have to wait for my first post on Riding Gravel for that take. I won't spoil it here. I will say that these are of the 650B X 47 size, which I find to be a nice compromise between weight, width, and diameter. Well, for a gravel road rig, I find that to be a good thing. You can also bomb some double and single track with such a set up, so it could make for some interesting route choices you wouldn't otherwise choose to ride.

That said, I sure hope Terrene comes out with a 700 X 2.0"-2,1" version of the Elwood. It would make a killer tire for a Fargo!

Rocky Mountain Suzy-Q: Ya know.....because Halloween is coming!
27.5 X 4" Fat: 4 Season Fatty?

A year or so ago Trek came out with their 27.5" sized fat bike wheels on some models of  Farleys. Were they daft, or were they on to something? I know a guy that has one of those bikes and he pretty much parked his normal mtb bike for the 27.5 X 4 wheeled Farley fat bike. He claimed it was far more fun and capable.

Well, Trek was the only game in town then and they were the only ones making tires under the Bontrager label. That's okay because they are good tires, but was this just a Trek thing? Now it seems that maybe it isn't, and more of this sort of rig will be showing up in the future.

Rocky Mountain is the next brand to utilize this fat bike wheel size and they got Maxxis to provide the tires. You can bet other factories are working on 27.5" fat bike models too. I bet we'll be seeing such beasts coming out in the future. It makes sense for those folks wanting to use these fatter tires all year long, and maybe even as a bike packing platform.

Trans Iowa v13 Registration Update;

The registration process continues as the Rookie class for T.I.v13 is sending in their cards to potentially have a lottery for the chance to ride in T.I.v13. So far, as of yesterday's mail, there were 26 entrants so far and with just over a week to go, it still will be touch and go on whether we'll see enough entries for a lottery. Today's haul and Saturday's deliveries will probably determine whether or not we'll get over the 55 rider limit on the Rookie Class field. Stay tuned on that front.....

I'm still doing some work on the course. I have a workaround for one section of pavement. As for the first 40-ish miles, I am still contemplating an exact route, but I do have an idea for what to do. Yes......there will be a B Level Maintenance road in the first section. Why not? It isn't a "real" Trans Iowa without some dirt and mud thrown in, right?

Okay, have a great weekend and get outside and enjoy yourselves on a bicycle!