Friday, December 09, 2016

Friday News And Views

The son's bike has gone 1X11.
Another 1 X 11 Conversion:

The "sans front derailleur" movement is almost like a religion. To play the game you must "convert". Evangelists of the movement seem convinced that the front derailleur is on the way out. I don't believe that for a second. However; I can see why and how a 1X set up is a valid choice for cycling. To that end, my son, who is having issues realizing how he can use a front derailleur and multiple chain rings, is now going to be front derailleur free.

No spiritual epiphanies here, just plain practicality. I want to break down any barriers for him toward getting some enjoyment out of riding and so that front derailleur had to go. It was frustrating him to the point that he wouldn't use it. Not an issue now!

I got an NX Grip Shift, since my son prefers twisters, and an NX rear derailleur. A SRAM 1 X 11 chain and a Race Face "narrow-wide" ring in green ano also went on with a GX1 cassette. I matched the front Beargrease take-off wheel with its rear mate finally. All good to go.

With school about to take a Christmas recess and with the Sun making a longer visitation in the afternoon in January, I look forward to riding along side him as he pilots this new rig.

More gab about USAC trying to get into the gravel racing scene.

More Kerfuffle Concerning The Gravel Scene and USAC:

Recently this Velo News article was posted online which stated that USAC was eyeballing the gran fondo and gravel racing scenes. They don't want to, "sit idly by and not be a part of that."

Translation: "We don't want to sit and not get any money out of that."

A link posted to the RidingGravel.com Facebook page and other sites and individuals that linked to that article revealed a very large percentage of negative feelings toward USAC. Besides a lot of rage against USAC concerning the possible ruination of gravel events, I think what we are seeing in the reactions are that many folks distrust USAC. And make no mistake- this is all about money. 

USAC and the UCI have rattled this cage before. I wrote the following in 2013 regarding the possibility of the UCI and USAC looking at gravel events for revenue because you, the riders, may not attend their events. Here's what I wrote then......"They might be afraid you won't choose their events to ride in though, and with the slew of "free, grassroots" gravel races cropping up and getting a lot of attention with big numbers now, the UCI and USAC may just start taking notice here."

Of course, those numbers of riders in free, grassroots events need to have the event be insured, right? (This is actually a serious question) That's what USAC is going to pry their way in with. Or at least try to do that. I've written what I think about all of this before and here is an excellent example to check out, if you have a mind to. Bottom line: USAC just doesn't get it.


It's coming back..........again!
 Snow Dog Part 3:

If you've been here reading since 2011, you might remember the Snow Dog, my first fat bike. I had to strip it down once for my son's first fat bike in 2013. Then it made a brief reappearance when the Ti Muk became the "MukTruck" for a bit. Then when that experiment failed, I had to swap the wheels back to the Ti Muk and the Snow Dog has been grounded ever since.

Okay, if you don't know, the Snow Dog was a special 50th birthday gift from several friends. It was a super crazy surprise that blew me away. I will never be able to sell this frame and fork because of that generous gift.

So, anyway, with the completion of my son's latest rig, I have an extra set of wheels now. That means that the next project is to revive the Snow Dog, for the third time, and get it back out and riding again. I may even go super old school and use a front derailleur with three chain rings! That's how it was originally set up. The thing I am thinking about with this bike now is that it will be sort of an all-year touring type bike that happens to have 4.0" tires on it. We'll see, but that is my thought currently.

Stay tuned for more on that.......

And stay warm! That's it for this week.


Thursday, December 08, 2016

RidingGravel.com Jersey Design For 2017

The design was selected by a majority of RidingGravel.com readers that voted.
Okay, this will be the jersey design I will be sporting at events for 2017. It was a design idea we posted on RidingGravel.com for the readers to vote on there and on our Facebook page as well. These are the colors that were selected.

Now for a bit of commentary on this jersey versus what I found worked for me last Summer. If you've been reading here, you know that I went with a lightweight wool jersey over a base layer and traditional bib shorts. You may be assuming that this jersey is not wool, and you would be correct. So.......now what? 

Well, never fear. I have already taken this fact into account and have looked at options to have a jersey custom made just for myself. A one-off, if you will, out of Merino wool. The plan is to get the fabric in the colors that are closest, take a sample from the regular jerseys, which I should have later on, to a local seamstress, and have that wool fashioned into an approximation of the design shown here.

It may cost an arm and a leg, but I am unwilling to go backward on the gains I realized from last season with the wool jersey. The "standard" material jersey will get worn aplenty, don't worry, but for the hot, longer events, I will be going with wool. It works for me.

Details on ordering this kit will be released later. There will be no wool jersey option offered, nor planned at this time, so don't ask.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tales Of The Night: Fat Biking And Flat Tires

Things started off just fine.
Well, I ended up going out on Saturday for a fat bike ride of the Green Belt. I got out pretty late after wrestling with setting up my son's fat bike with a 1X set up. (Needs a couple more parts yet, stay tuned....)

So, I decided I had better put on some lights and I headed out. It was chilly, but not too bad. there was a bit of snow in the forecast, but it wasn't supposed to kick in until later on. I didn't figure on being in that, but I did figure on getting in a bit of riding in the dark. Hopefully just a little bit.

Things were going well, actually, and I was making great progress getting all the way out to Shaulis Road before the Sun set. I figured on maybe having to turn the lights on for a minimal amount of single track. I could see pretty well all the way back to Ridgeway, but after crossing there and hitting Marky-Mark trail, things went pear shaped.

That trail is narrow, twisty, and undulates a lot more than the rest of the Green Belt trails do. So, my lone bar mounted light was not pointed where I wanted to see about 60-70% of the time. Yes.... I know better, but I thought I wasn't going to be out quite this late. I started to ping-pong around a bit due to my inability to see. Finally, I stopped to gather my wits about me. then I noticed it.......

Outside my little bubble of illumination, it was really dark.
Flat tire!? Yep. My front tire was flat. Bah! This was a bad spot to deal with it as well. Marky-Mark is tight and there isn't a good place to get a field repair done. I decided to walk it out to the meeting of Marky-Mark with the original trail where the Parks Department had a wide berth mowed through.

Here I laid out my repair items and I found that I must add at least one more item to the list of things I take along- A needle nose pliers and maybe even an awl or other sharp, pokey metal object. You see, I found a thorn by using my wool glove liner to wipe the inner side of the tire. The liner glove caught the thorn tip, and that saved my skin from being torn or at the least, poked painfully. However; I had no tool worth using to dislodge that thorn. Fortunately enough of it protruded from the outside of the tire that I could grasp it with my finger nails. Some gentle persuasion got it to pull free.

The thorn was removed so then I could install a new tube. The Crank Brothers pump I had really worked quickly and well. (It is an ancient first gen version of this pump) I was back together, but it was a slow affair as I had to be deliberate and careful in the dark so as not to misplace anything. The tire and wheel back together and where it belonged, I cleaned and repacked the gear. Then I prepared to take off. I was sure Mrs. Guitar Ted was expecting me by now, and it was getting late.

As I left, I was mystified as to what had become of one of my glove liners. Couldn't find it, but a search just before leaving with my bright light revealed nothing. I must have stuffed it in another place or pocket, maybe? Well, maybe you've guessed it by now, but I realized where it was and then a little later the bike path confirmed it. I had left it inside the tire casing!

Whump! Whump! Whump! All the way home, but at least I was able to ride home!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Bikes Of 2016: Surly Big Dummy

The time of year has come that I will be reviewing the bikes I used the most throughout 2016 and why. The ups, downs, changes, and more will be discussed.

The Surly Big Dummy had been on my "want" list" for many years. Mostly because of my "Xtracycled Schwinn" which I used on a fairly regular basis for several years. While the longtail add on was nice, I grew to become disappointed with the set up. It lacked many things which are vital to being safe and having an enjoyable ride. Like good brakes when the thing was loaded. That wasn't all, but it was the main reason the bike sketched me out on more than one occasion.

So, I knew that a Big Dummy was the solution. I had always planned a build and in fact, I had some hubs and rims lined up for a possible wheel build, but I let other things take precedence and the project was stalled. Finally, something happened that made me kind of sit up and take note. A friend sold a Big Dummy and I nearly pulled the trigger and bought it. It was a really well spec'ed example, and it went for far less than I thought it should have. I saw it sell in 28 minutes or something ridiculous like that after it was posted to a Facebook forum. That kind of got me worked up. I should have bought the thing.

Well, another friend ended up selling one and that's the one I got. I wasn't about to make the same mistake twice!  It is well spec'ed as well, but there were a couple of modifications I made to make it my own. First and foremost was the Brooks B-17 and that precipitated the move to the Paul Components seat post made especially for users of Brooks saddles.

Other than that, it has solved all my issues with the old Xtracycled Schwinn and does what I need it to do so well it is silly. I am very glad I picked this up and it has become a very practical bike for me over the past several months I've had it qualifying it as a "Bike of 2016" for me.

Monday, December 05, 2016

A Lament For Odin's Revenge

Beautiful, Tough, Fun. Odin's Revenge was all of that. Image by W. Kilburg
I think it must have been 2012 or so when I heard some stories about Odin's Revenge, a gravel grinder event out in West Central Nebraska. As I recall, it was Mike Johnson, a local rider, who was talking about his experiences out there and that it was a "must do" gravel road event.

I had been out to the area back in '09 to scope out what was to be the failed and final attempt at a bicycle festival dubbed "The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo". I found out back then that Nebraska was actually really hilly and absolutely gorgeous. Any excuse to go back was going to be met with a positive response. Well, lucky for me, the Odin's Revenge gravel grinder was cooked up, and I decided after hearing what Mike had to say, I was going to head out that way and give it a go.

Now, I'm not going to go into all the details of the event. Heck, all you have to do is go back in the blog here to any June from 2013,'14' or '15 and read the reports on this event. There you will read all you need to know. Odin's was my one of my favorite events of the year, one I would not miss, (except this year due to my Mom's surprise 75th birthday party), and was probably second in line to the Renegade Gent's Race in terms of my all-time most favorite event to ride in. I was planning on going back next Summer for sure, but the organizers have called it quits for now.

Bummer!

But, at least I got to ride it three times. I've never managed to finish that event, and now it looks like Odin's will have "his revenge" forever upon me, but man! It doesn't matter to me, really. I am just so glad I got to ride Odin's Revenge at all. So, I decided that I would share some images and memories they stir in this post.

The roads in this area of Nebraska are breath taking and brutal. That's Craig Groseth on a single speed in the image.
Another crazy road. That's Craig again, I am pretty sure.
One of the unique elements of Odin's Revenge is the roads. I've never been on roads like this anywhere else. There is outright gravel there, but the unmaintained roads are the real stars of the course. If anyone has ridden an Odin's Revenge, all you have to say is "Government Pocket Road" and nothing else. The eyes and expressions shared would be all the communication that would be necessary to understand. It's just a crazy, rutted, dusty, sometimes muddy twisted course of dirt roads out there that amaze, challenge, and more often than not, brutalize those riders that take them on.

Then there was the element of where the event was held. Gothenburg Nebraska is situated far enough West that it drew riders from the Colorado and Black Hills areas. That is why I met several folks I am so glad to have met. I doubt I would have ever become friendly with any of those people had Odin's Revenge not existed. People like Craig Groseth, whom I met at my first Odin's Revenge, and who I hope to ride with again some day. Craig was just crushing it on a single speed, and he is an amazing rider. Just one example of many folks I met out there in Nebraska in the middle of no-where.

And of course, there are the organizers and volunteers of Odin's. The "DSG" group. The main folks were Chad, his wife Merrie, Matt, Bob, Nate, Paul, Kyle, and Garrett. Thanks to these people, their hours of work, their care, and their dedication, Odin's was a great experience. The core group kept that event fun, tough, basic, and one of the best run grassroots gravel events that I am aware of. That was no small feat either. How they kept a balance of sponsorship, down to earth feel, and honest, heartfelt care for everyone that came to ride is beyond me. The experiences I had were second to none.

That's Chad on the table, the "Odin" of Odin's Revenge. This was the pre-race meeting in '14.

Merrie, Chad's wife, checking me in to CP#1 in the '14 Odin's event.
Paul playing the hammered dulcimer. Yes, you even got serenaded at Odin's pre-race gathering!

My resting place after another "vision quest" at Odin's in 2015
Like I said, I never finished an Odin's. I twice  got about a 100 miles in and wilted. The other time it was the toughest 47 miles I had ever ridden. That was the "muddy" year. Along the way, I had what one of my gravel riding acquaintances would call a "vision quest".  Well, every time I rode Odin's, I had a pretty intense experience. I have a distinct memory of each time I rode an Odin's of where this happened.

Like the first Odin's Revenge where I got so overheated I stripped down to my birthday suit and laid in the cool grass several yards off the course in a secluded grove of trees. I got the job done, cooled down the core, and continued onward. There were probably two other times I was really on the edge at that first one too. Sitting at Potter's was a Godsend and that running water from the hose. Heaven!

There was the time I had to bail out early at Mile 47 and ride back to Gothenburg. On the way there, I was falling asleep on the bike, so I stopped and rested under a huge shade tree in a pasture. Or the last Odin's, where I was so bonked out and overheated that I saw fog when I looked around me and there was none. Odin's may have been a ton of fun and good times, but maybe it also damn near killed me. I'm not sure.

I guess it was a combination of the terrain, the heat, and my understanding of myself, or lack of, I should say. That's another thing I owe to Odin's Revenge- I learned an awful lot about myself and also how I needed to prepare and how I dealt with heat. I learned what to eat and keep myself fueled. The lessons gained from Odin's were used in my finish at the Gravel Worlds this past Summer. Had I not tested myself so severely, I likely would never have gotten to that finish line at all.

Matt Wills grinds up a long hill on his single speed Soulcraft in the '13 Odin's. Probably my favorite shot I've taken at any gravel event.
So, I am so glad I even got to ride in one Odin's Revenge, let alone three. The people, the place, and the experiences are something I will treasure forever. Thanks DSG and anyone ever associated with Odin's Revenge.

There may never be another Odin's Revenge, but I will go back there to ride again someday......

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Big Fat Dummy: Are You Kidding Me!

Finally! They went and did THIS!
Surly Bikes is a weird company. I am not sure that the originators of the company back in the late 90's quite envisioned this, but they set the course for the company by offering a bike no one else would in the mainstream industry and decided not to fundamentally change it or phase it out. The Surly 1X1 frame and fork still, after 18 years, is available. It has been updated, but fundamentally, it is the same bike.

Surly has remained that company for the most part. They do not cotton to "model years". They change spec and colors whenever they flow with their supply chain. (Much to the chagrin, at times, to their fan base.) They update features when it makes sense to do that. But more importantly, they make stuff when the mainstream bike companies won't consider doing that. Still.

The Big Dummy cargo bike is such a rig. Fisher took a stab at the cargo bike, and Kona offers one, but neither did it before Surly did it. Now look what they did...... They made it a fat bike too. Don't hold your breath for a Trek or Specialized version of this to come out. And maybe that's for the best.

For all the super-nerdy details on this rig, see Surly's blog post here. Get ready to burn a half an hour.......or more. 

An example of the activity you might get involved in by exposing yourself to a Big Fat Dummy
 If you've read this blog for a while you know I just got a Big Dummy. I really, really like it, and I will admit that I've been looking at how I could maybe squeeze something bigger inside that frame for tires. I have quietly thought for several years that a Big Fat Dummy would make perfect sense, and said so to then Surly Marketing wonk Travis. In fact, he owned a Big Fat Dummy with 3.0" Knards stuffed in, barely, and agreed that the Big Fat Dummy would be rad. I wouldn't at all be surprised that the project was kicked off at around that time. I bet I wasn't the only one saying they should make one.

Well, however that worked out, they did it. The bike everyone that owned a fat bike and a Big Dummy had thought about. A steel, fat tire capable cargo bike. It takes the biggest fat tires out there now, if you are willing to compromise on drive train range a bit. It can handle up to a 100mm suspension device up front. It has a completely new, better frame than the current Big Dummy has. Stiffer, more capable to ride over stuff. It can even handle 29+ tires and wheels. It is even dropper post compatible. Don't laugh. If you've ever tried to mount a fully loaded Big Dummy, a dropper post makes a ton of sense. Call it a parking setting post. Then it maybe it becomes more clear as to why that might be.

So, I have a Big Dummy. Would I get one of these?

Having never ridden this beast, here's my reaction to the thing at this point in light of my experiences with the Big Dummy.

This is my Big Dummy
 Well, if I hadn't purchased this Big Dummy that I have now, yes- I would definitely get the Big Fat Dummy, and here is why:
  • Totally redesigned frame which is stiffer, has through axles, and new geometry for easier roll over of curbs, etc.
  • Suspension fork compatibility. I have Bluto fat bike suspension fork which would be perfect on this bike.
  • Fat tire capability. I would have a Winter set of tires and a Summer, smoother treaded set. 
  • Tubeless rims. Natch.
  • Dropper post compatibility. A brilliant idea for this bike. They are not just for drop offs and gnarly terrain. 
So, am I trading in my old Big Dummy for this? Not likely. I still really want a Big Fat Dummy, but I don't really need to get one. Mine is lighter than this new one (The BFD weighs 54lbs in size medium), I can do 95% of what I need a cargo bike to do with this current Big Dummy, (Winter performance yet to be determined), and my current Big Dummy is stiff enough for my needs.

The new Big Fat Dummy would increase my capabilities a touch, but at the price of $2950.00USD it would also cost me a lot more.Value gained per dollars spent would be minimal in my case, but for anyone that isn't in to a fat bike and needs a lifestyle/car replacement bicycle, this would be on top of my list.

Okay- Now it is speculation time: Sometimes you can glean little nuggets from press releases and historical performances of certain companies. Surly is no different in this regard.

Surly mention the following in their blog post about the tire capabilities of the Surly Big Fat Dummy: "Like stated earlier, you are good to go up to 26x5.25” in the Big Fat Dummy." 

Wait...... No one makes a fat bike tire in that size. Yet.

Let's say Surly has a bigger, badder fat bike tire up their sleeve. Wait....... They don't make a bicycle that can fit that big of a tire. Yet.

Hmm..... Maybe there is something else I could really use coming up........


Saturday, December 03, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 48

Some of the first T.I.v3 cards we received during that Trans Iowa's registration
Ten years ago on the blog the talk was about Trans Iowa v3.The registration had been announced and we were starting to receive our very first Trans Iowa post card entries. That's right.....our very first Trans Iowa post cards. 

You see, Trans Iowa did online registration for the first two versions. Then we regressed! We decided to make it even more simple, and we also decided that we were going to be a free to enter event. The insurance costs, which is what the entry fee used to cover,was becoming just too much for our minds to charge riders. Besides, post cards were, and are, more fun to get. So, that is what we did and 2006 marked the first Trans Iowa post card entry receptions.

We went backward and never looked ahead! Trans Iowa seemed to spawn other "post card" entry events after this. Even now, when I see things like the Almanzo 100, I grin because post card entry action was pretty much instigated by Trans Iowa. At least in the gravel grinder category. Some events used to use post cards, but ended up going to online registrations, which is cool, but Trans Iowa will never do online registration again.

Someday I'll have to display my favorites, but after 13 versions, it gets hard to choose!