Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday News And Views

The Lance- circa 2005. Image by J. Maus of BikePortland
Should He Or Shouldn't He?

You've probably heard by now, but just in case you haven't, it appears that Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, and a maybe a couple of other former USPS teammates of theirs are going to do a mountain bike event coming up sometime soon. This has raised up the dander of the internetists who are concerned about the "purity of the sport". The cry of "Never!", or the alternative, and somewhat more measured calls for "live and let live", all have been noted.

Of course, it should be noted that Lance Armstrong serves a lifetime ban from any "sanctioned" events. So, there ya go folks. Cycling has served its verdict and that's that. However; you'd think that by somehow having Lance Armstrong even dare to enjoy the bicycle ever again is an affront worthy of.......I don't know. Ask these people that are getting their pants all wadded up.

It is also worth noting that despite Lance Armstrong's sins against cycling, he did raise a lot of money for cancer research and brought a lot of people hope in that realm. Maybe he was a bully, or unsavory in character, I have no clue. You can find all sorts of stories about his character on the innergoogles if you want to waste your time doing that.

All I know is that he is riding his bicycle in a competitive endurance event with some friends. I don't think that's going to hurt anyone.

Winter On Hiatus:

Well, I actually got back to riding the bike to work yesterday. That was a good thing and it felt awesome to ride a bicycle again after a break for being really sick. I am still not 100%, but I feel a lot better.

But in the meantime, as I stated on this blog previously, Winter has taken a flier and gone somewhere else for a while. In the meantime we have had an ice storm, rain, and more rain, with some fog, then rain. This has eradicated the snow, made a lot of standing water, and that water turns into ice.

In some cases, that ice gets pretty slick, and in some places, there is no way around it. You have to forge ahead. I chose "by foot" in the place I am showing here, but in a few other instances I took my chances. I was sideways more than once on the way to work. But, I made it! No dumps, no foot off the pedals. Then, while I was at work, the skies opened up.

Rain on January 19th and temperatures in the 40's. Wonderful. Good thing I decided to pack the rain pants.  That long stretch of ice I walked in the morning shown in the image here was drowned in two inches of water. Super slick! I was very careful when I walked back across that in the afternoon! Funny thing about frozen ground, it doesn't absorb rain water. So, there was a lot of running water and standing water puddles all over that place. The river and creeks here are all on the rise. Flooding in Winter? Could be a reality for some folks, unfortunately. Sheesh! Will Winter ever make another appearance this season?

I'm betting it will. In fact, they are talking about something possibly hitting next week. Stay tuned......

Well, that's a wrap for this week.  Have a great weekend and stay warm!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Value Based Decisions And Tubeless Tires

Trying to "garage tech" my way into a tubeless set up.
Tubeless tires are really a great idea for bicycles. Really, they are. There are a lot of reasons to pursue that for your bike, and I would wager to say that the wider the tires are on your bicycle, the more vital it is that you go get those tires set up tubeless. Fat bikes, as an example, really will make that fact, (and it is a fact), better understood.

So, keeping the above in mind, I will let you know when it is a bad thing to even mess around with trying to do a tubeless tire set up.

The first clue you should take note of when discerning whether or not to try tubeless with your current stuff is identifying what technology it is that you possess. Old, (as in maybe only three years ago old), components like tires and rims, may not be tubeless compatible. In the fat bike world the likelihood that your fat bike came with tubeless rims or tubeless ready tires is slim to none. While you can set those kinds of things up tubeless, and you will get folks screaming it out from the rooftops that "It works!!", there is no reason to mess with that these days. In fact, the benefits vs headaches ledger will show that converting the non-tubeless stuff to tubeless isn't at all worth it.

I know, I've seen it work both ways. The main point that one should take into consideration is your time. If you do not value your time, well then......have at it. I've got better things to do than sit around taping up a special layer for a tubeless set up, or splitting a tube, to get my tires to work tubeless. Especially when there are ways to do tubeless on fat bikes that takes minutes and can be pumped up with a hand pump with the valve core still installed. Plus, you can swap tires at will. No messing up a tape job or replacing a split tube. We've got that kind of luxury today.We don't need to beat our heads against the wall and try to make something work the way it wasn't designed to work.

But.....if you must know, here's the tape I used.
So, here is what happened with my attempt. I spent probably 45 minutes on this, and keep in mind that the rim was pre-taped from a successfully done tubeless set up with these same components before.  Oh, and that was all on one tire. I never even tried the other.

I had the tire actually taking air, then the bead let loose on me and it wasn't taking air again. That's when I cut my losses. 45 minutes of messing around on one tire and rim is 35 minutes longer than it took me to set up two fat bike tires at work which were tubeless components.

To me, that's a significant difference in time spent to the point that I pulled out of my attempt at this, cleaned up the one tire, and had both wheels set up with another tire set, tubed, ready to ride, in fifteen minutes. Oh, and there was absolutely zero issues getting that done. None. And it won't give me any trouble with seepage, "burping" at low psi's, and it won't need a sealant refresh down the road.

By the way, the set up I did at work held air without sealant, held psi with a loss less than 5psi for both wheels for one week, and can be safely run down to lower pressures with no burping or problems at all. Why try to make my set up be what it isn't? 

Now, you may rightly say, "But you would have to buy a new wheel set and tires!" Yes......obviously. That isn't the point, and it shouldn't be either. The point should be, which way has a higher benefit versus time/money spent? That answer is obvious. The more correct tool for the job is going to yield a higher benefit in the end. You can cut grass with gas motor grafted on to a push reel mower, or you can just go buy a Lawn Boy and be done with it. I know which one works better and takes less time to set up and use.

So, I will be looking at newer tubeless compatible wheel and tires in the future for my fat bike. Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


A Stroopwafel sample. Stroopwafel......riiiiiight.
Okay, if you are having trouble with the title today, let me take a moment to explain. The days where I have no direction or theme for the post I write get tagged as "randomonium" posts. Yes......the word does not exist.


 Big deal. That never stopped me from making up words before. In fact, when I was a jeweler, my boss and I had so many made up words in our vocabulary, (that no one else understood), that my former boss' wife recently told me that it was like listening to a married couple speak a foreign language.

But I digress......

Anyway, as I have already said somewhere, I have been sick of late. The annual January sickness, or so it would seem. I have noted that since I have been going back through the old blog posts for the "Minus Ten Review" posts I usually put up on Saturdays. This time it seems to be a double whammy of flu and head cold. Thankfully I seem to be on the upswing, and I have been very careful to get plenty of rest. Lots of fluids too, and the good kinds even! Water, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, and a bit of coffee here and there.

A bit more progress in cleaning up has been accomplished since I can't be out riding.
That means I have not been riding at all. Oh..... I sneak in a bit of a ride at work when I am there by riding around the showroom floor. But mainly, it has been a dry spell, and I have not liked that one bit.

That said, there are two things that I can point to as sort of silver linings in the black cloud of no riding, as it were. One is that I have been able to make a lot of headway in clearing up the shop in the basement that I typical refer to here as "The Lab".

I saw a recent post by some hot shot blogger, (Hi Dicky!), that said he had a box of stuff he needed to get rid of.

One box! pffffft!

I bet I have a pick-up load, easy. I do not mean to brag, and I am not exaggerating the pile I have. In fact, it is a downright shameful thing to have been sitting on all this junk all these years, but I have declared war on boxes of "stuff", and even cans of stuff, and tool boxes of stuff, get the idea. I won't even get into the four foot high pile of tires I moved out to the garage for now. Oh......I should say that there are actually two piles that high! 

When warmer weather finally occurs and I can manage to plan the 26 missions my Big Dummy will have to fly to carry out its part in this war, then I will be moving this stuff down to the local bike collective. Some of it is metal scrap, some is just getting the boot outta here. But anyway..... Point is that progress is being made and I have a plan to get free from the piles of stuff that has collected over 20 odd years.

The snow is almost gone, what we have is rotten, and it is covered in ice anyway.
The other silver lining I spoke of earlier is that since I have not been able to ride the weather has gone to crap. The Winter snow has been rotted by rains, higher temperatures, and ice. Even the two Iowa fat bike races scheduled for this weekend are cancelled, and last weekend's event was a scary, sketchy ice rutted affair, or so I've heard.

So, I couldn't ride, I wouldn't ride, even if I could ride, which I cannot. Too sick still. Getting better by the day, but I am not wanting to prolong this so I am doggedly sticking to my guns. I feel like a complete slug and way out of shape, but what are ya gonna do? Besides, as I have said, it seems every January starts out this way, why shouldn't this one. 


So, in better news I have a ride to, and a room for, the Dirty Kanza 200. If nothing else, I will be doing a long, tour-ish ride of the surrounding gravel roads near Emporia with an eye to not going anywhere close to the DK200 course. That will all get determined later. Of course, there still is the outlier of my having an obligation to, so that ride may be different than I envision now, or it may not happen at all. Stay tuned.......

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Failure Mode

That long silver line on that bar is a crack. Found on MG's personal rig recently.
Failure is a topic that many of us that ride bicycles don't like to speak of. It is "negative", so you just do not speak of failure in terms of your performance. However; there is another kind of failure that we do not speak of much either. Failure of components and frames and forks. It is a very real possibility every time you ride your bicycle.

I was tipped off to a very good article covering a wide array of the topics related to parts failures on bicycles by a Twitter/blog reader contact I have. The article is by "Cyclingtips" and can be found by clicking this link. It is well written and broad based in scope. So, I feel it is a good primer on the subject for any cyclist.

I am going to take a look at this from a mechanic's/rider point of view. The above link does a good job of pointing out a little bit of the following, but like any broad ranging topic, there just wasn't room there to flesh out the subject. Not from a point of view such as mine, which includes being a mechanic for over 20 years.

In terms of parts and frame failures, we see a lot more crash related failures than we do the type of failure that happens from "life span" issues. Generally speaking, you can chalk that up to what the linked article points out where bicycles are sold then never really used. Crashes can constitute a lot of examples. The obvious is where there is something catastrophic, where bodily injury was inflicted, or there was obvious violent contact with something. (Roof mounted bike into a garage door, as an example.) However; I feel the most commonly found failure is due to a crash that did not seem to be a big deal at the time, but resulted in a failed component later.

Things will last only so long, then they die.....
This can be hard to pinpoint because most of the time people file away little biffs and dings in their mental recycle bin never to be retrieved again. However; it can take only one fall to precipitate a crack in a handle bar, as a for instance, that could lead to a "catastrophic failure" later. See MG's handle bar above. He dumped his bike in a corner, then later found this crack. Had he not seen that, the bar could have "given away all at once", or so it would have seemed. The reality was that the damage was already there waiting to fail the rest of the way.

I like to think of these things in terms of something that happened back in my youth when I was a jeweler. We worked on fine jewelry and manufactured custom designs which required lots of polishing to bring the fine metals up to their highest glow and sheen. To clean everything up, we used an ultrasonic cleaner, then a hot, high pressure steam bath. We would use these heavy stainless steel "tweezers" to hold the items as we blasted them with shots of steam. After we were finished, we would nonchalantly toss the tweezers into this heavy glass container we kept on the back drip edge of the sink. One late night, after one more of probably hundreds of thousands of tosses of tweezers into that glass, I sat down after cleaning something up to file it away in its envelope and move on to the next task. It was maybe 3-5 minutes later when the glass exploded into thousands of tiny crumbs.

I like to think of that last tweezers toss as the final crash that "broke the camel's back", as it were. The glass continued doing its job for a few more minutes, then it "just failed". In reality, every toss of those metal tweezers was building up stress in the glass which finally resulted in the glass exploding in spectacular fashion without seeming to have any "input" to make it do so.  Our bicycle parts, frames, and forks are also subject to these stresses that can eventually lead to a part failure, like the wheel I have shown here. That pulled through spoke probably had a crack next to it to begin with before it actually failed completely. Had the owner of that bike seen that crack beforehand, he could have replaced the wheel before it completely failed.

Considering that most riders almost never inspect their bicycles for cracks or loose fasteners, it is a near miracle that we don't have more catastrophic injuries related to "JRA" (Just Riding Along) incidents. Consider also that hundreds of thousands of bicycles get infused into the marketplace every year. The sheer numbers of bicycles waiting to fail must be astronomic in total. That isn't to say that efforts should not be made to improve things, but we are talking about a small number compared to what it could be, in my opinion.

Fat bikes, in particular, have had a rash of fork issues since becoming widely available.
Another thing that has been a noted issue with failure, but not a high frequency thing, is the advent of rigid fork fat bikes. The forces at work which exert stress on different parts of a fat bike are far greater, or different, (or likely both), and have caused forks to be recalled. We've seen some subtle and some not so subtle redesigns of fat bike forks which we have replaced under warranty. Obviously, this will sort itself out, but missing the mark on design is another way we've seen failures on parts.

Even less likely is the rider who refuses to repair, or replace an obviously compromised part. While this is admittedly a smaller fraction of possible failures, I see this far more often than I do the flawed part that just falls apart. At any rate, these types of situations concern me the most. In fact, I will refuse a job, rather than take the risk that something will continue to perform without causing injury or death. A famous example would be the various jobs I have refused because the steel fork was bent backward and the owner refused to replace it. is steel, and as one guy said, "I've been riding it this way for 30 years!". I replied, "All the more reason I would not work on that. Your luck is due to run out at any time now.", and I wasn't about to take a bet on that one! He probably is still riding that bike, but you know, the minute I work on it, guess what would happen....

Finally, there is the misuse of parts and bicycles. We see this a lot! Stems and seat posts extended beyond their intended insertion points, quick release levers used incorrectly, trailers loaded with cargoes way in excess of what brake and wheel systems on the bicycles that pull them were rated to. Racks affixed to carbon fiber seat posts, bags installed incorrectly, and the list goes on. It is amazing to me how much of this people get away with without catastrophic failures. So, there are another group of potential failures just waiting to happen.

The point is, "life cycle" product limitations may be something worth pursuing, but don't for a second think that this will solve the potential issues with failures. There are far more modes of failure than that.

Monday, January 16, 2017

If You Have Time To Lean.....

Part 1 of the swap session completed
The cold and flu season has caught up with us here at Guitar Ted Laboratories. So, I haven't been out on the bicycle of late, trying to recover and all, ya know. So, I kind of feel like I haven't been doing what I should be doing. My bikes have been leaning, not moving. And you know what they say about when you have time to lean.

So, I was just sent some brakes and shifters from Gevenalle. The package came with a front derailleur as well. Now the plan was set all along that this stuff was going on the Tamland. That meant that I would be removing a full brake set, front derailleur, and shifters. Avid and Ultegra stuff. Nice stuff that works pretty well.

So, that stuff couldn't just sit around and lean either. What to do? Well, I came up with a plan. See, there is another bicycle I have that has SRAM on it and, well, I just do not think that SRAM road stuff is very good. I held off judgment on it until I had a lot of rides on the stuff, but I can say that, for me, the SRAM road stuff is slower shifting, feels clunky compared to Shimano, and worse, the levers are much harder to actuate from the drops than Shimano's are.

Now I had almost everything I needed to switch the Twin Six Standard Rando to Shimano from SRAM. Everything but a rear derailleur and a crank set. Okay, well it just so happens that I had a slightly defective long cage Ultegra rear derailleur in the bin. I looked at it and sure enough, I was able to get it to be perfectly functional. The crank? Well, that isn't going to be critical to overcoming my complaints, so that stays.......for the time being. 
Old school, reliable, and actually lighter than the Ultegra one.

 Well, enough about that, what about the Raleigh? Well, as long time blog readers here probably know, I really have enjoyed the Gevenalle, (formerly Retroshift), shifters, which ironically enough, cannot be shifted from the drops! That fact doesn't escape me, but I have learned to be able to execute shifts and return to the drops just fine, not unlike going to a downtube shifter and back. A step backwards? Perhaps. It used to be called Retroshift after all.

But they are dead simple not only in execution, but also in ease of use, and quite forgiving of inclement conditions. Stick your Gevenalle shifter into a mud hole when you crash, and you can get up and go with the confidence that the sifters not only survived, but work flawlessly. Now from where I sit, that isn't a common occurrence, but copious amounts of gritty dust? That's a commonly seen issue, and Gevenalle shifters are pretty much impervious to dust and grit.

Now they have mated the shifter to a TRP hydraulic drop bar lever. Hydraulic brakes? Yes. They are not 100% necessary, this is true, but they are easier to use. Less effort at the lever for better braking power? As a mechanic who has pulled wrenches for 20 + years, I'll take that advantage. I bet those who are dead tired on a ride and have to negotiate a 35mph downhill on loose gravel will also appreciate the easy modulation of a disc brake using hydraulic fluids. How these hold up, actually work in the field, and how they stack up ergonomically are things I am interested in discovering.

Stay tuned on that.

But the weekend wasn't a complete wash because I was sick, and now, well........I cannot wait to get out riding again!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Registration Madness

Looks like I will be going down to visit this country again this Spring.
First off, no- I did not get in the DK200. I didn't even try to. Actually, I was in bed sick when the whole registration thing happened and I understand that it was quite the scene.

There was a new record time set for fill up, which is what I predicted. Depending upon who you believe, the DK200 was filled up, (with exception of the 200 women's spots, which took a little longer), in somewhere around 15 minutes. That's all available spots, and the "200 Women-200 Miles" category filled in about a half an hour, so I gather.

So that's pretty great, yes? Well, that is a good thing that also has a "bad taste" for many who experienced internet hiccups with the registration service used by the DK200. Stories of "spinning icons", dropped registration, crashes of the site, and more were seen on social media. Some folks thought they missed out only to find a receipt showing that a credit card had been charged and then finding their name on the roster later. Some folks missed getting in but were charged for support and rooms anyway.

There were some that had part of their group get in, but others did not. It gets to be kind of a tough deal when that happens to you and your friends.

I'm not going to speculate as to why things seemed so difficult for the registration server, but I will say that it has become painfully obvious that there is a "frenzy" component to this event's registration that is a known, social reaction which is relevant to many retail sales situations. Think "Black Friday" madness and you can understand what I mean. I saw the same/similar thing with Trans Iowa registration. I ended up changing the way Trans Iowa does registration which has completely diffused the "frenzy" nature we had with registration and now it is completely a sane and fair process.

It's not like they aren't trying to make the process smoother.....
Look, I have to be honest and say that I really liked the "frenzy" to a degree. Back when folks were sending flowers, pizzas, and cases of oil in with their registration cards, or when we were starting to get visitors dropping cards off. That was a lot of fun for me and for those associated with the shop and the event. I am sure that the excitement over the registration process is kind of invigorating for the DK Promotions folks as well. However; I think that when you see as much disappointment and such an amped up atmosphere around the process of registration, it might be a wiser thing to make the process a bit more measured, calmer, and more reasonable to those seeking spots. How would that work for the DK Promotions folks? I do not have an answer for that. I just feel the time has come for a change in the way they do the registration for this highly popular event.

So, anyway, I have one good friend that did not get in and two others who did. I will once again be down there, but not as a registered rider. I'm not entirely sure about the plans for's involvement in some capacity at this juncture. There may be something I am wrapped up in having to do with this. If not, I'll probably just do my own ride again.

If you didn't get into the DK200, and you want to "just ride around" down there that weekend, let me know. I may be able to make that work We will see.......

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: More Of What It Is All About

I've written many times about what it is about the gravel road riding and racing scene that I find so attractive. I've written loads about what Trans Iowa is, and what it is not. That's all well and fine, but when you see someone else put things in a little different way that helps you understand what it is you are trying to say even more clearly?


Such a written document was found via Facebook the other day. It was a link to another blog. (Yes, some people other than myself blog about cycling.) In fact, it was a piece done by Craig Groseth, a talented, strong rider out of South Dakota whom I have had the pleasure of riding with. He "gets it", of course, when it comes to all this country riding, but he also knows how to wordsmith pretty darn well. I suggest that you check out his take HERE.

It is well worth the time to read through.

Minus Ten Review- 2

THAT trail, not "trail", get it?
Ten years ago on the blog I was talking about a wide array of things, but one topic that I covered is still sorely misunderstood ten years down the road.

You hear folks talk about how "None of this nit picking, micro-dissection of bicycles and geometry matters. Just ride!". Then you can find the same folks talking about how they really liked this demo bike they tried, or they really liked some different rig their friend has because it "felt so good to me!". "Say one thing, do another" much? Yes. Yes, many times they do .

One of these areas of misunderstanding is bicycle geometry, but there are others as well. Tires are another big one, but let's stick to the geometry for now, since that is what I was writing about ten years ago.

Front end geometry is probably one of the biggest contributors to how you perceive a bicycle handles. Rightly so, since your hands, two of five body contact points, are directly connected to the business end of front end geometry. They feel the results of what is going on with all those angles and whatnot. Yet many people fail to recognize this, or begin to understand how that can be such a big deal. Mere millimeters of difference in "trail", the measurement which describes the stability or lack thereof in a bike, can make a huge difference in your perceptions as a rider. Head tube angles are most often referenced in discussions about front end geometry, but that is really only a part of what really matters, which is the "trail" figure.

This post a decade ago ended up becoming the catalyst for an extensive experiment I ran a year later. I took my OS Bikes Blackbuck and ran eight different forks on it all with various offsets, axle to crown dimensions, and formats. (rigid and suspended) I made every effort to keep all other fit parameters the same. It was a very enlightening experience, but I'll leave that discussion for some time down the road.