Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday News And Views

I am getting the big one. Should be easier to see!
Entering The 21st Century......FINALLY!

When you talk about GPS computers for bicycles it generally means that you are talking about "your garmin". It is like talking about"kleenex", which is really a brand name. But if I say, "hand me an unsanitary napkin", (because who blows their nose with a sanitary napkin, right?), you wouldn't know what I was talking about.

So, cyclists talk about their "garmins" this-and-that all the day long. and I suspect that this new gizmo I am getting will eventually just become "my garmin" as well. Anyway.......

The point is I am finally getting a GPS based cycling computer. Oh.......sorry! You probably have no idea what that is. I meant to say a "garmin" made by Lezyne, which is really called a "Super GPS", but everyone will think it is a "garmin", ya know?

Okay....okay! I'll give it a rest. Besides, this isn't the first time I will have had one of these beasts. Nope! Had one once. It was a 600 series.....you guessed it.... Garmin- and I thought it was ridiculously huge and overly complicated to use. Plus, it took about three to five minutes for it to access the satellites, which, you know, is about 2 minutes and 59 seconds too long for your riding buddies to wait for you, so I ditched it. Gave it to a friend.

So, I am trying this new fangled Lezyne unit out. I will be disappointed if it proves to be more fussy than a standard computer to run. Why? Because technology is often times actually more time consuming and more fiddly to use, which is kind of a step backwards, if you ask me. If, for instance, you have to do some song and dance every time you fire up a device, it isn't worth it. If you have to charge it more often than you use it, it is junk. If the menus are only understandable for computer designer geeks, than it is stupid. I won't keep this around for long if it ticks off my "keep it simple" mentality.

That said, it could be the greatest thing I've done in a long time for my bicycle. Time will tell. Stay tuned.......

Tomorrow I'll be riding this 100 miles.
Fat Bike Century:

Doing a century- 100 miles by bicycle- seems hair brained enough, but doing that on a fat bike? Yeah, I get why folks seem to think that is really daft. That said, it isn't impossible. Lots of folks do this distance on fat bikes and more all the time.

Besides, I've done three metric centuries on a fat bike in Winter at Triple D. Every time the conditions were challenging, and the work effort to do that event was a lot! Probably harder by far than the 100 mile route we have in store tomorrow. Another thing I've been asked is if I plan on using flats. Yes.....yes I do. I see no reason why that won't work like it did on my three Triple D finishes.

I may have to add a seat pack to this set up as the weather could be wet in spots. I guess there is a chance to see some showers. I may want my rain jacket for that, plus it gives me the option to shed a layer should I want to do that. Otherwise, I hope to get this rig cleaned up a bit, get my cues ready to go, and hit the road tomorrow morning. Expect  a full report on Monday.

 Velocity USA Consolidates Functions To The Mitten:

Velocity USA is a rim, hub, and wheel company mostly. Well, they do have a pretty cool bottle cage too, but anyway, yeah.......mostly it has been about rims. I have used Velocity rims in my wheel builds since 1994 and have been very satisfied with anything I've used from Velocity. They used to be an Australian based manufacturer with an office in Grand Rapids, Michigan (Read "The Mitten"). Now production of rims has been Stateside since 2011, based in Jacksonville, FLA. That will change in December when Velocity consolidates all functions to its Grand Rapids, "The Mitten" World Headquarters.

I think it is a move that makes sense. Velocity says, "The move is expected to improve product delivery time by 7 to 10 days while bringing specialized bicycle rim production jobs to Grand Rapids. The factory will join Velocity’s current distribution and wheel building facility. The combined facility will enhance research and development capabilities and continue to build on Velocity’s reputation for top-tier customer service by leveraging the state of Michigan’s long history and reputation as an innovative manufacturing hub for the United States."

Sounds like a good move to me. Now they just need a slogan. Something like, "Proudly Made by Hands in The Mitten". 

T.I.v13 Registration Is Underway:

The first cards started rolling in for the registration for Trans Iowa v13 the other day. The process will continue throughout the month of October culminating on Halloween with the drawing for the Rookie class riders for next Spring's big dance. By the way, registration details can be reviewed HERE.

In other tidbits, I have been tweaking out the course a bit. So far I have about 326 miles mapped out. That will be adjusted a bit, I am sure, once recon happens. That should be in a couple of weeks from now. We're hoping a one day slog will suffice to get the course recon knocked out. It will be a long, long day either way. I'll have more stuff to share about T.I.v13 soon, but for now, that's all I can say.

All righty then! Everyone try to get out and ride this weekend and have some fun!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Country Views: Harvest Time Starts

The harvesters are starting to hit the fields now
I got out on a proper gravel ride, the first in quite a while due to recent rains, and the first since the weather broke last weekend. The wind was rushing out of the Northwest and going up Moline Road was, uh........interesting. But before I get to that, I wanted to tell the story from the beginning, because it seemed that I was destined to not make it out of town at all.

It all started with me going around in a circuitous fashion to avoid various construction projects downtown. Once that gauntlet had been dispensed with, I found that I was blockaded by the train being "built" out in the Waterloo rail road yard which often times will block several streets going North/South. I decided to head West and see if I could find an end around, but the train arriving from the West was blocking off every crossing, so I had to wait for it to clear an intersection before I could free myself from being stuck in the grasp of Waterloo. Once across those dratted tracks, I thought freedom from the city was only a mile away, but not so fast!

Waiting on the train.
More evidence of harvest activity.
I found myself on the nice pathway alongside Highway 63 North which ends at Allen Hospital. That's where I wanted to turn right and cross the highway. I did all the legal stuff, I pushed the talking cross walk button and waited for the command and the light. When it came on, I proceeded to roll out, but something made me look left anyway, and boy! I was sure glad that I did!

A lady in a car was trying to turn right and she was going to go even though I had been standing over my bicycle to her right for several minutes before the light changed. Anyway, I stopped and glared at her and she stopped halfway out into my crossing. I went around her and pointed at the crosswalk sign. I didn't say a word, but hopefully those at that busy intersection all learned a lesson.

Sheesh! Was I even supposed to go on this ride? You know, I often wonder when I get so much push back from random things when I am headed out on a ride. Maybe I'm superstitious, or maybe I am "tuned in", but whatever it is, I still felt that riding was okay. I was just super wary after all of that non-sense!

The good news is that despite having to travel on busy Donald Street, I wasn't "pushed back" upon from making forward progress and I eventually made the hard left on to Moline Road and out of harms way. Mostly. I suppose I could still get KO'ed by a farm vehicle, but the chances are low. (Says the guy who got hit by a drunk driver while walking his bike alongside a remote gravel road!)

There still are some flowers out there. Lots of these late season bloomers- Asters- which are really beautiful.
I apologize for the slight out of focus here, but clovers are always a constant in the country. Here's a late season bloomer I saw.
I first saw that a field had been partially harvested going up Moline Road. That was a bit of a surprise, given the copious amounts of rain we received last week. Maybe it was just a test for moisture content or something. But then I heard a harvester, and after that, I saw one. Hmm..... They did say the harvest would kick off early this year, and I was traveling up on some higher ground out this way, which would help with drying.

More Asters.
More clovers.
Since the weekend, the weather has broken into Fall at full song. Blustery winds out of the North and cooler, very dry air is streaming in where once we had humidity so thick it hung like a haze in the air last weekend. The temperatures which had been in the 80's have been replaced by 50's and that wind made it feel cold.

Earlier in the week I rode to work on the Big Dummy and thought my finger tips were frozen by the time I got to the shop. So, yesterday I wore some thin wool gloves. I dug out my wind shell, and put on knickers and long wool socks.  I was certainly glad I did that. I wasn't over dressed at all. The wind was pretty brisk and without any direct Sunlight, things weren't warming up much out there.

I suppose we'd better get used to it. It is Fall, after all, and nearly October. I actually welcome the change in weather as I was getting a bit tired of being "swampy" feeling all the time and I just think it was high time for a change in season. I suppose when you are a born and raised Mid-Westerner, that is what you are accustomed to having happen anyway.

The other thing that happens now is that people like me become the "freaks of society". I am one of "Those" individuals that keep riding bicycles despite the weather and what it brings. Maybe that's the thinking behind that lady in the car back in town. Maybe. Still, it is no excuse, and I need to be doubly vigilant now because of that mentality.

I gotta roll back by here in a couple of weeks. I bet that Maple tree will be spectacular by then.

Barns For Jason
It is that time of year when the Green fades away. The Yellows, Golds, Browns, and the Reds and Oranges of the trees in Fall take hold for a brief time. Then it all goes dun for the Winter. The bleak, starkness of Iowa's countryside in Winter is a sharp contrast to Fall. Better get out there and enjoy this changing of the season!



Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Monkey Decade: Close- Very Close

There are some details to work through, but this is close to done.
Many of you regular readers are familiar with my 2003 Karate Monkey and the old thread I did on this bike starting back in 2013 which I dubbed "The Monkey Decade". That kind of drug on, and on, and on due to a stuck bottom bracket which I finally, with the help of the shop mates I have, got unstuck this past Spring.

Since then I have been, on occasion, fiddling with the fit by changing out some parts here and there. All the while trying to recreate the feel I had with this bike when I last had it dialed in back in 2007-2008. Have you ever had a bicycle you had so tweaked out that you could call it "nearly perfect"? This Karate Monkey was that bicycle for me. Then I went and started changing up stuff.

I was an idiot.

Well, of course, things changed with parts and what not until I got to a place where I just figured this bicycle would never be "that bicycle" again. Besides, I had other bicycles based off the old set up which were arguably better in some facets that mattered. Well......to me they mattered. Then I saw that Velo Orange Cigne stem and that gave me some hope that this part might get me close to "that bicycle" once again. And you know what?

I think it has done just that.

The Cigne Stem puts the drop bars right where they always should have been on this bike.

Now I have hope that with a few other key changes in componentry, I not only will have "that bicycle" back again, but that it will actually surpass that set up of old to reach a new level. The stem is the key. It puts those drops right in the pocket. I like the height of the drop section and the reach is dead on. That never quite was the case with the old Monkey set up with Midge Bars and a rise stem.

These drop bars are like the Velo Orange Dajia Far Bars but are actually Gary Ergo Sweep OS Bars from Origin 8. They are interchangeable as far as design, being the same thing. Anyway, I will reserve judgement until I get some longer rides in. So far they seem a lot like what their Origin 8 name implies, an ergo bend road bar in the drops, which I am not a huge fan of, but they are okay.

Like I say, there will be changes. A 180mm crank set with a bigger ring, a different cog on the back wheel, and the red will give way to green. But this is close to being done.

Very close!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fat Bike Century Challenge: Update

Swapped tires.
Last Friday, after the deluge from Thursday evening which caused the flooding to get started, I decided to ride the Ti Muk in and test out the Bar Yak system on the way to and from work. I figured I may have some positioning issues I might be able to sus out on the commute. I am happy to say that there were no such issues though. Only a comfortable position which should prove to be stable and get me a bit more aero on the gravel this weekend.

My next issue was tires, The big, lugged tread Lou on the front and the Chao Yang whatchamacallit on the back wasn't necessary for the gravel. Overkill and far too heavy. So, I found my 5 year old Larry 3.8"er and a 4 year old Big Fat Larry to swap in there. The BFL went up front and that "skinny" Larry went on the back. It is really weird how a 3.8" Larry looks positively anemic these days when we have 4.8+ inch tires roaming the Earth. Anyway, the Larrys are mounted and ready. It is great to have a slightly lower bottom bracket again. Those big tires really jack the Ti Muk up like a 4X4.

On the nav/computer front, I put in a request for that new Lezyne Micro C GPS unit through work. I'm not sure that'll happen before this ride though. We'll see. If not, oh well. I'll just rely on Tony's computer and count miles for fun as I ride. The cues for this will be figured out ahead of time and perhaps I can write up my own for the route. And speaking of the route......

Tony had a route in mind but it followed one of the recently flooded out rivers, which we both agreed might prove to be a bad idea due to potential washouts and/or bridge damage. So, as of now, it looks as though we'll be heading West then back East again. At any rate, it will be 100 miles of gravel with some small towns thrown in as resupply points. We're going out Saturday October 1st at around 9am from an as yet undisclosed spot in town here. Interested? Join us if you can on your fat bike. We could have a "thundering herd' of fat bike tires the likes of which hasn't been seen in a while around these parts.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Too Much

The 6th Street railroad bridge getting lapped by the Cedar River's flood waters- Image pilfered from Facebook
It's been tough to think about anything here lately than water. Water that we don't need and that has fallen from the sky, swelling our local rivers and creeks to overflow. And not by just a little bit either.

The Summer of 2008 was a disastrous Summer from the standpoint of severe weather and flooding. We will never forget the Parkersburg F-5 tornado that claimed lives and changed that town forever, along with the community of New Hartford. The other thing that was devastating that year was water in the form of record level flooding of many of our rivers in Iowa. They said back then that the Flood of 2008 was a "500 Year Flood" event, meaning that the event was a once in every 500 year event. Well, so much for that......

My son and I checked out the river Friday afternoon. Note the railing down below him and the bridge in the background. 
On Saturday, at approximately the crest time, you can no longer see that railing and the bridge has a lot less light under it!
The crest of the Cedar River was on Saturday in the afternoon, and while it was not a record, it came in second highest ever recorded, only eight years after a "500 Year Flood" event. Yeah........ I guess we don't know as much as we think we know.

Anyway, the point is that even though we've made improvements with regard to flood protection in eight years, this is still a devastating situation. I'll keep it focused on bicycles here. There are a lot of bike paths, and arguably the most popular ones in the region, that are under water now. There are a lot of soft trails- single track and double track- that are all under water now, and will be for about two more weeks, in many cases. Drying in this season of the year takes more time- less hours of Sunlight, lower angle of the Sun, and cooler Fall temperatures play into that.

The awesome power of rushing water is frightening to behold up this close. That's a dam under there in the background.
Not only that, but many gravel routes are cut off now North, Northeast, and West of town due to flooded gravel roads which are closed. Case in point, the Geezer Ride route, which we rode only a week ago, is cut off in at least three places. It would have been impossible to ride this weekend.

Of course, there are a lot more effects from the flooding which are far more serious, and that is why it is hard to think of riding when so many are helpless in the face of this natural disaster. All you can do is watch it and hope for the best. The National Weather Service says that the Cedar won't go back in its banks until well into next weekend. You'll all have moved on by then, but the Cedar Valley will be dealing with this for weeks and months to come.

Let's hope that this was really a "500 Year Event"! We don't need this every eight years.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Trans Iowa v13: Registration Details

Okay folks, this is it. Your details on how, when, and where to send in your registration cards to get a chance at being in Trans Iowa v13. Read this very carefully, as I will not be answering questions about "how can I can get into the event ?" this year, or anything like that after this posting. Those emails will be trashed. There should be no need for them after you have this info in hand. Okay- with that stated, here we go.....

Concerning The Post Cards: Everyone will be using post cards for registration. I don't mind home made ones, but they cannot be multi-layered, or have things sticking off of them, or be anything other than paper. Size is limited to standard post card size, which is approximately 5" X 7" or smaller. All post cards from the USA must be sent by US Mail! Overseas post cards may be sent airmail to insure a timely delivery. There will be specific information required for each class, so please make note of this as you fill out your cards. NOTE: Illegible writing or missing information will disqualify you from the lottery. I threw out at least a dozen cards last year due to these two things. Don't let that be you. I don't care if you are a Pro, have done the Ironman ten times, or are a so-and-so athlete that thinks that they don't need to follow my instructions. It doesn't matter to me. Most riders figure this out fine and have for a decade. You can too, or if not, you won't get in. Period.

Plus Six & Active Winners List: <==Click that link. If your name is on that list, and you want to ride in Trans Iowa v13, simply send me a post card with your Name, e-mail address, Class entering, (Mens Open, Womens Open, or Single Speed/Fixed), and address it to:

Guitar Ted
311 Baltimore Street
Waterloo, IA 50701

Get that out to me anytime from now until October 8th when your window closes. If I do not receive your card by next Saturday, you won't get in.

Veterans And Finishers: <=== Check that link. If you find your name on it, you cannot enter Trans Iowa as a Finisher or Veteran this time. You must register as a Rookie. Sorry, but that's what I've decided. See HERE for why that is. Now, if you are not on that list, and have finished or participated in a Trans Iowa, you can register in the following manner.  Fill out a post card with your Name, Class desired, (Open Mens, Open Womens, or Single Speed/Fixed), your e-mail, and Rule #11 from The Rules. The whole thing, legible, and complete. NOTE- YOU WILL SEND YOUR POST CARDS TO:

Europa Cycle & Ski
C/O Trans Iowa v13
4302 University Avenue
Cedar Falls IA 50613

Your cards must not arrive before October 3rd and you must get your card in by October 15th to be eligible for the Lottery For Vets & Finishers which will be held October 16th live via Periscope. A link will be provided just before the lottery if you'd like to tune in. There will be a minimum of 55 spots up for grabs here.

Rookies & Inactive Rider List Folks: <==  IF YOUR NAME IS ON THE INACTIVE RIDERS LIST you will follow this procedure along with anyone new, (Rookie) that wants to try Trans Iowa v13. Rookies & Inactive Riders must have their Name, Class desired, (Mens Open, Womens Open, or Single Speed/Fixed), along with Rule #1 from the Race Rules page in its entirety, written legibly, completely, and spelled correctly. No joke. Get this wrong and your card will not make the lottery for the 40 spots up for grabs here. 

Your window for registration is October 17th to October 29th. Send those correctly sized and filled out post cards via USPS to -

Europa Cycle & Ski
C/O Trans Iowa v13
4302 University Avenue
Cedar Falls IA 50613

That lottery will be held October 31st, via Periscope. A link will be given to tune in and watch prior to the Lottery drawing.

NOTE: All decisions on legibility, content, post card size, post card deadlines, and all lottery functions are made by Guitar Ted and his decisions are final.

Good Luck!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 38

Mr. 24 at work in '06. He's getting married here pretty soon! Congrats Jeff!
Ten years ago here on the blog things were changing. This week pretty much marked the end of what I would say was the "freewheeling, fun, rookie days" on the blog here. I was about to embark on my first trip to Interbike in ten years, and I was also about to be entrenched in to writing and reviewing product for Twenty Nine Inches.com, a job I had up until the end of 2014. I was a person hardly anyone had ever heard of in 2006, but within a year that would all be a different story.

I've written loads about my feelings about that, so I won't rehash it all now. I will just say that those days are a cherished memory, and I am glad I got the time I did to spend those days at work with some great guys. Especially Jeff Kerkove, who I have to thank for a lot in my life. Trans Iowa, gigging on this blog, and what that all has brought into my life is really all because of him and the time we had back in the day. This all has become more present in my mind as Jeff is to get married here very soon. I won't be able to attend, since the service is in Colorado, but Jeff, if you read this, Thanks! And, Congratulations to you and Karen!

In other news, there was a lot of 29"er stuff happening. Loads of new tires were being discussed and introduced. I got a Bontrager Switchblade fork to review, and some new 29"er bike news was bubbling up. It was a time when the whole 29"er thing was exploding. Pretty crazy stuff back then.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday News And Views

Not this year: Interbike Outdoor demo was a ghost town and not like this at all.
In the "Hey! Didn't I just Say this?" (Like years ago) File

Interbike suffered its worst attendance in years this week and even the press had to admit what I had been witnessing for several years back in the day when I used to trek out to Sin City. Check out this missive from Pink Bike. But like I said, I've been ringing this bell for years now.

Back in 2010, Interbike said that the '10 show would be the last in Las Vegas. It was going to go back to Anaheim California. A lot of people were stoked about that idea. Then the I-Bike wonks yanked the carpet out from hopeful vendors, media, and attendees' feet and put the show back in Las Vegas the following year where it has remained ever since. Was that its downfall? Well......maybe partly it was. However; I think it has a lot more to do with what I've said all along- and what the author of the PinkBike story finally cops to- that being that Interbike is irrelevant. Check out this bit I wrote six years ago:

"The biggest question still out there is "Will moving Interbike and its date even matter?" I would have to say that without the bigger companies commitment to coming to Interbike, and instead, having their own private "dealer camps", Interbike will be ineffectual as a place for the independent bicycle dealer to come to for an overview of what to expect in the coming year. The other thing is that with Sea Otter in the spring, and Eurobike located where it is, I don't see Interbike gaining back much, if any, relevance in as far as introductions of new products and innovations that would draw dealers and the media alike."

Yep- I wrote that last paragraph six years ago. Makes me wonder if that PinkBike guy is just ripping me off. (<===HA! Not really. ) Anyway, this isn't news, it is just inevitability finally playing itself out. Anyone paying attention could see this coming years ago.

Need a set of 29+ wheels for your fat bike?
 Plus Wheels For 197mm/150mm Fat Bike For Sale:UPDATE- THIS ITEM SOLD

Okay, I wanted everyone that reads here to know that I have added a wheel set for sale on my Garage Sale page. For $500.00 you can get this 29"er plus wheel set made to fit a Blackborrow, Surly ICT, or similar fat bike with 197mm rear through axle and 150mm spaced front fork with 15mm through axle. Not only that, but it comes with an XD driver already mounted with a 10T-42T GX cassette. NOT ONLY THAT, but you will also get a brand new set of Bontrager Chupacabra tires, 29 X 3.0" TLR and still on their retail sale cards. The wheels feature Turnagain hubs laced to Velocity Dually rims. Basically, all you'll need to add is tape, valve stems, and your bike and you can have a turnkey 29+ set up for a fat bike. Also- these components have never been used! Brand new stuff!! 

I've decided to go a different direction and I am going to sell these things off as I won't be using them. They were going to go on my Blackborrow at one point. These wheels, tires, and cassette, plus spokes, nipples and labor to build the wheels would normally cost you $1000.00 for the pair. You are getting it all for half price.

Also- I have a lightly used Bluto fat bike fork off a 2015 Salsa Mukluk for sale as well. Make me an offer. I need it to go away as well. Thanks!

I am also adding a Mukluk frame in Xtra Small Size for sale. Great shape. It is the one my son out grew. Yours for $300.00. Frame only! I have a fork which can be added if you are interested, or you could buy the Bluto with this at a package deal price.

Let me know if you need them. See the Garage Sale Page for more details. 

Here it is! The longed for Big Dummy in the flesh!
Big Dummy In The House"

Some would say that the "big dummy" is me! Anyway, I got the Big Dummy home last weekend and started using it straight away. I have to say that I was right about this bike. It is sooooo much better than the Xtra-Cycled Schwinn that there can be no comparison.

There is a bit of an odd fit to these things though. I noticed that this bike has gobs of standover, but the seat tube is still 20" in length measured from the center of the crank spindle to the top of the tube. Yet the top tube seems 1990's short. I was a bit cramped and too upright at first. So, I yanked out the Uno seat post I got with the bike and popped in the Salsa Shaft post I had because of the greater set back. It was marginally better, but still not enough, mostly due to the Brooks saddle. Those saddles are notoriously difficult to get set back far enough due to the design of the rails and undercarriage.

So, I got another seat post! This one was a Paul's Tall and Handsome post. First off, it works, it is beautifully simple, and it is beyond well made. Secondly- damn! It is expensive!! I get that it is made in the good ol' USA and all, but it clears $100.00 retail by a lot and let me tell ya folks, it isn't that special. The thing is though, it does as advertised and gets that Brooks right in the sweet spot. Perfect, as a matter of fact. What would you pay for a perfectly set up Brooks? Answer: Waaay too much money, but the results cannot be had in any other way. So, in the end, it was worth it. It made the Big Dummy work better for me, that's for sure.

Three seat posts later and now I am happier yet. I have more to say about this bike. Stay tuned......

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend! get out and ride!!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fat Bike Century Challenge

Starting to work on my set up
My fiend Tony asked me the other day to do a fat bike century with him. Challenge accepted. Hmm......now what?

I certainly am not doing this on my Blackborow DS, that's for sure! Way too low a gear and one speed. Nope. Not gonna do it. So, my only other choice right now is the Ti Muk. That's a great choice, but for one detail, and that has to do with gearing also. I changed it to 1X just recently.

That small 28T chain ring is going to get a work out! The SRAM NX cassette is as well. I tooled around a bit yesterday to try and get a feel for speed on this beast, and I think it will be okay, really. The thing is, I suspect I'll be in the highest three cogs, maybe four, all day. Yep. It can work, but ya know, bigger gears are more efficient than smaller ones are. 

So, you say, "Just change out the crank set ring!"  Ah! But the OD crank as an oddball BCD. Well......nowadays it is oddball. It didn't use to be that way. Anyway, getting a bigger "narrow-wide" chain ring for that is going to be tough or maybe impossible in less than two weeks. I'll just run what I have. It will work, but I may wear it out! We'll see.

Bar Yak cockpit set up.
There are greater concerns to be dealt with anyway. Like water. I have to not carry that on my back, so I think that light, supple On One carbon fork is coming off and the Enabler is going back on for now. That will solve the water issue. Two cages on the fork and two on the bike should suffice for this deal. The lowest, third cage on the frame will be for repair bits and tools in a bottle.

While I am at it I probably will go to a Big Fat Larry up front and a Larry out back. Lighter rubber will be a good thing and the Larry tread pattern rolls fast. Heck, I may go regular Larrys all the way around. I'll have to see what I have available to me to throw on there.

I transferred over the Bar Yak system to the Ti Muk for now as well. This will be its first big outing when we attempt this, so I will be interested to see how things work out during the ride. I tooled around a bit on the extensions to get a feel for that positioning and I like it so far. Getting down out of the wind will likely be a valuable thing at some point during the ride. I may have to spring for a GPS unit to track everything with and get mileage off of before we head out.  It would be a lot better than a wired computer! That's for sure!

Okay, so that's the plan of attack so far. I will be doing some experimenting and modifications yet that I want to try. Then I'll load up with Epic bars and Justin's Almond butter packets, throw in some flattened bananas,and head out for 100 miles of gravel on a fat bike. Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Velo Orange Cigne Stem Overview

The Velo Orange "Cigne" stem is an "LD" type stem for drop bar mtb's
Background: In the weird world of off road drop bars, one of the main issues is getting the drops up in the air high enough that the drop position becomes your primary hand position. Let's face it, there are not many hard tail mountain bikes that were ever designed around such an idea, so typically you will find yourself retrofitting drops to a flat bar hard tail mtb. When you try to do this, you will find yourself fighting against two big hurdles that are hard to clear.

The first of these two hurdles is that the reach, or in old mountain biker's parlance, the effective top tube length, is going to be a bit too long for a drop bar. Why? because unlike flat bars, a drop bar adds to the overall reach of the cockpit. The "reach" of the drops adds to the effective top tube length, so stem length is critical to a successful drop bar conversion on an old mountain bike. The stem reach needs to be very short, typically.

The second hurdle is that the head tube lengths on most mountain bikes are relatively short compared to those bikes designed for drop bars. Why? Because drop bars have depth while flat bars are on a single plane. To make the drop section useful in almost every case, you need a stem with a steep rise. Those are typically very hard to find in short reach dimensions. It's either that or you get a frame designed around drop bars which will typically have a longer head tube to alleviate that issue. See the Salsa Fargo and El Mariachi models for a perfect example of what I mean here.

Back in the 1980's, builders of mountain bikes used a stem design that was most often associated with Potts, Ibis, and Cunningham bikes to get around the two hurdles I mention above. Known as the "LD" type stem by many, it is a simple and elegant way to get around the longer top tubes and shorter head tubes of mountain bikes when drop bars are desired. The trouble was that these custom builders either became something else, died out, or stopped producing these types of stems over the ensuing years till now. The only way to get such a stem was to contract a custom builder that was amenable to the idea of making stems to make you one, which is obviously very expensive. So, most riders just "make do" with whatever stems they can get.

My Karate Monkey with a Dimension riser stem in the shortest reach and highest rise available. 
Above you can see what I mean about "making do". This is my '03 Karate Monkey with a Origin 8 "Gary Ergo Sweep OS Bar" (Velo Orange has the identical bar as the Daija Far Bar) and I am using the Dimension stem in the highest rise and shortest reach possible. Without adding a stack-o-spacers on a longer steer tube, (which is impossible since I cut that fork in '03), this is the best possible set up I could get. Well, other than a custom stem. Anyway, the drop section is a bit too low for my liking, and as you can see, the tops are about at the same level as the saddle. I also wasn't keen on the reach, which was a bit too long for my tastes.

A quick mock up using the Cigne stem. Now that is a big difference!
Above here you can see my quick mock up using the Velo Orange Grand Cru Cigne Stem. Sheesh folks! Do we really need such long names?!! Maybe we could have called it the "Tom" stem, or the "Nancy" stem and made it simpler. Anyway......

Fancy pants long name aside, this stem radicalizes my set up. Check out the reach, which is 70mm for the stem. You can get an 80mm reach Cigne stem too, but I went for the shortest option here. Obviously, the height is there as well. Check out how much higher the drop section is. Totally usable now as opposed to marginally usable before.

You can check out all the technical mumbo-jumbo here if you want to, but the bottom line is that now one can get a tested, well designed, good looking stem for converting a mtb to drop bar use. This stem will make many more set ups far more versatile and workable than before at a reasonable cost. You could also probably use this stem to raise a road bike's handle bar to more comfortable levels as well, ala Grant Petersen's preferred handle bar height and other sundry rules.

I will do a more ride performance oriented review of sorts after I get this set up squared away with longer cables and housings. Until then, this should give you a better idea how a good, proper drop stem can make drop bars work better on a hard tail mtb designed around flat bars. The Cigne stem comes in black as shown, silver, or a special nickle finish. You can get Velo Orange components from your local bike shop.

NOTE- I bought the Velo Orange Cigne stem with my own damn money and was not paid nor bribed for this review. All statements are my own and may not reflect the opinions of Grant Petersen, Velo Orange, or anybody else on this planet. So there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Trans Iowa v13: Registration Tweaks Update

A little over ten days ago I listed some ideas that I had planned to implement for the Registration for Trans Iowa v13 and I asked for feedback or you'd get stuck with my plans. Well, I didn't get much feedback, so guess what? You can't complain now. The train has left the station......

So, if I get any complaints now, or in the future, I will take them under advisement, as far as you know, but I will not address or answer any questions going forward about how registration works and why I am doing it this way. Going forward, this is the plan, so make notes. I'm only posting this once.

Okay, so there is now a "Trans Iowa Inactive List". As I stated almost two weeks ago, there are just too many folks on the Veterans and Finishers lists now to allow just anyone in via postcard. I am instituting the Lottery to help with this. That said, there are a LOT of folks that have not tried getting into Trans Iowa for several years. I put these folks on the Inactive List. It doesn't mean that these people cannot get into Trans Iowa ever again. It simply means that I am weeding out seemingly uninterested folks from the Veterans Lottery so those who really want in have a better chance at it. (Because the numbers in that lottery will be lower, so the chances are better that your card will be drawn.) The Inactives can send in a post card, but it will go into the Rookie Lottery batch. That is if anyone on the list actually bothers to try. Which, obviously, hasn't been the case for several years. So, this will, in all probability, be a moot point except in rare instances.

There is also a new "Trans Iowa "Plus Six" and Active Winners List". There are 25 folks on that list currently, and these folks are the only ones that will simply be allowed to enter by post card now. The reason for this is that they have been regular attenders and riders in Trans Iowa with their most recent ride being post T.I.v7. These riders also have to have at least six or more Trans Iowa attempts. The remaining names here are the most recent winners- T.I.v7 to the present- and of these none have done six Trans Iowas, but they have won in recent years, and have ridden in T.I.v8 or later.

So, it is simple. If you are one of the 25 on the Trans Iowa "Plus Six" and Active Winners List, you will have the opportunity to get in via a post card, with info I ask for on it and sent to a specific address. That leaves, at least, 95 spots left open.

Of those 95, there will be a Lottery for Rookies for 40 spots. Rookies are folks that have never been in a Trans Iowa before. The Rookies will have to send in a post card for the lottery. The details of how and when to send those in will be released soon. There is a possibility that a few Trans Iowa Inactive List riders will be in the batch for these 40 spots. This will leave 55 spots left open for Trans Iowa v13.

The remaining 55 spots will be for Veterans of past Trans Iowas that do not have their names on any of the above lists. There will be a lottery for the remaining 55 spots only if I get more than 55 entrants via post cards, the details of how and when to send those in will be released soon.

This is the layout if I get all 25 names on the Plus Six and Active Winners List to enter. If less than 25 enter, there will be more spots available for Veterans. If I do not, for some bizarre reason, fill out the Vet spots, then I will move those down to the Lottery for the Rookie and Inactive list folks.

Got it? Good!

Details on Registration will be announced this weekend. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Geezer Ride- Fall '16 Report

Just getting started- Dennis and Eric positively glow in the morning Sun.
The Geezer Ride for Fall is in the books and was an unqualified success, as far as I am concerned. What a perfect day, for starters, and the group we assembled this time was another very good, amiable bunch of folks. Seven of us in all, and that helped us put in maybe the fastest Geezer Ride ever.

So, I woke up at 5:30am and started to get ready. I had to run over to the convenience store to pick up some goodies for the mid-ride oasis stop and then get into my garb for the day. I decided to ride over to the start which adds about 15 miles to the total for the day's riding for me. I was riding the Pofahl single speed, of course, and I never did get the duist cleaned off it from last year. Oh well!

I arrived about ten minutes before the start, and a few folks were there milling about. I saw Dennis from Grinnell, Eric, who is a local, and Tony's truck was there but he was off talking to Ross, a first timer, and they were over under the shelter house. I went to use the public restroom and when I came out, I saw Robert, a regular on the 3GR rides, come in right at 8:00am. I said we'd start at "8:00-ish", and so we would. I was a bit puzzled that Lauren hadn't shown up. She is a co-worker of mine who was rather excited to try out gravel riding. She even took the day off work to be there, but by about 8:10, I hadn't seen her, so we set off. Six riders spun off towards the Sun-splashed horizon.

The bike path around Big Woods Lake is a really nice one. This made up the beginning and end of the route. 
Barns for Jason
We were doing fine on the opening miles of gravel. Everyone seemed composed and the pace wasn't outrageous. I rode back with Dennis, Eric, and Ross while Robert and Tony, regular gravel riders those two, went on ahead. We turned North on Ford Road and the day was just fantastic. Clear blue skies, bright Sun, and the gravel was actually really good. Tony remarked that it was "about as good as it gets in Iowa", and I would not disagree with him on that point.

So, we reached our first church and turned East on Bennington Road. I went on ahead here, and when I looked back after about a quarter mile, I noted that we were missing two riders! I stopped and turned around to see two figures on bicycles back at the intersection waiting. Maybe there was a flat tire? We pulled alongside the road and waited to see what the matter was.

(L-R) Lauren, Robert, and Dennis. Now we were seven!
After several minutes, I saw two....no wait! THREE riders coming down the hill! What the.....!!? I waited in anticipation and when I could discern the riders well enough I saw that one of them was Lauren! Her husband was to drop her off and they were a bit later than we waited for. Lauren decided that they should try to track us down as far as Ford Road and if they did not catch us she would abandon the ride. Fortunately, we were still near the intersection with Bennington when they caught sight of us. So we were seven!

Tony heading East on Gresham Road.
Detail of St. Johns Church at the corner of Burton Avenue and Gresham Road.
Taking a quick break.
I got a chance to ride with Lauren a bit through the next section as the ride turned Northward and then back East on Gresham Road. Here the flatness we had before turned into long, gentle rollers. The wind was a quartering tailwind at this point, but it wasn't too strong, so things remained pretty tranquil. Finally, we saw the steeple of the St. Johns church on the horizon and when we reached the top of the hill, we all pulled over for our first extended break of the day.

The plan I had was that about at this point into the ride I would call Mrs. Guitar Ted to come out and meet us at the ride's halfway point with water and some goodies. I placed the call, no answer, then to the house phone, no answer, and so I left a text. Bummer! I was hoping that everyone had enough to get by on, because I was pretty sure we weren't going to get our resupply as I had hoped. Just when I was trying to figure out how to break the news, I got a text message. It was Mrs. Guitar Ted. We were back in business!

With that bit of good news, we headed off North a mile to see the old East Janesville Church and then we went East again on Marquis Road to our meeting spot three miles east of Highway 63. I kept looking over my shoulder to hopefully get a glimpse of the Highlander with Mrs. Guitar Ted driving, but I didn't. We reached the corner, with Robert, Ross, Tony, and Eric way ahead of the rest of us, and they kept going straight! Dennis took off to flag them down, and Lauren and I waited at the corner. Pretty soon, I saw the Highlander coming. Everything worked out just right after all!

(L-R) Lauren, Mrs. Guitar Ted, and Eric enjoy the morning Sun at our oasis stop.
"Hero Gravel" on Crane Creek Road
We had bananas, water, and chocolate chip cookies. We chatted and laughed a bit. Then we headed off South  and Mrs. Guitar Ted headed back home. The weather had turned warm, maybe a tic to the hot side, but the early morning humidity had given way to a dry, Northwesterly and it was tailwind time as we went South on Schenk Road to Bennington Road where we turned East and were flying along. I barely had to pedal and I was doing 20mph!

We reached Crane Creek Road and by this time I was noticing the puffy white clouds starting to stack up in the sky. The wind was brisk now and as we were on our most Easterly bit, I knew it would be soon time to "pay the piper", as it were. I made mention of this to my riding companions, but I tempered it with the fact we would be making a couple more stops and that would break things up nicely.

We passed this fine looking pumpkin patch just off of the corner of Crane Creek Road and Mt. Vernon Road.
The next church, St. Johns Lutheran, was just ahead on the left here.
Robert Fry takes in the historical plaque placed outside the Bennington Schoolhouse.
We pushed along against the wind and as a group, I was rather impressed that we all stayed together for the most part. In fact, at no time did we have to wait on slower riders for any length of time. No one complained and everyone seemed to be in great spirits despite pushing against that wind.

The Hope United Methodist Church on the corner of Sage Road and Mt. Vernon Road was another brief respite, then we went on another mile to visit the Bennington Schoolhouse, a restored Iowa one room schoolhouse dating from the early 20th Century. It saw its last students during the 1954-1955 school year, and then was decommissioned. Then began a slow fall into disrepair and at one point, it became a storehouse for a local farmers hay! In 1997 locals took up the challenge of restoring it to its former state and it is well kept right up to this very day. We could see evidence of fresh paint. That's a nice thing to have as a reminder of the Iowa education system as it once was back in the day.

We lingered here for quite a while and several of us made good use of the corn fields behind the schoolhouse. Then we made our way toward Moline Road on Bennington Road again, then South to Mt. Vernon, and our final push to the finish. We had one more rest stop at Mt. Vernon Cemetery, then up some long, grinder hills toward Strymon Road.

Barns for Jason
Eric, Lauren, and Dennis cresting the hill at Streeter Road on Mt. Vernon Road. Ross is just out of the frame here.
Ross cresting the last big hill of the day
It was a pretty remarkable ride from the standpoint of having three rookie gravel riders on the ride. They did absolutely great, and the entire group was brilliant in that we were able to get the 42 mile ride completed by 1:30pm which was about two hours sooner than I had expected that we would be done by.

Once back in Cedar Falls, most of us went to Single Speed Brewery and had some locally brewed beers to celebrate the day. Everyone reported having a good time and I was quite chuffed by that and the fact that the three rookies all said that they would be looking to do more gravel rides in the future. Not racing, not ultra-endurance craziness, but just riding on gravel for the fun of it. That's the goal with the Geezer Ride- to get folks interested in gravel riding. So, to have three new fans is really quite a good thing from the standpoint of this format, which is pretty under the radar.

As far as the Geezer Ride format goes, that's it for 2016. I'll probably do a Spring and Fall ride next year, so keep an eye out for that if you are at all interested. I generally like to move this around some, so if anyone out there in Iowa, or somewhere reasonable for me to get to, wants me to come out and help put on one of these, let me know.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

How To Choose Your First Fat Bike: Or Something Else!

Depending upon your situation, a "plus bike" might prove better than a fat bike.
When considering fat bikes, it might be wise to figure out if something else would be better. Fat bikes, while capable of things that many other type bikes are not, just might be overkill. In some other cases, if your riding never calls out for the capabilities of a fat bike at all, you probably shouldn't even be buying one.

The Case For The "Plus Bike": 

The introduction of tires in the "plus category"- those tires measuring 2.8- 3.0"- has really upended the apple cart, in terms of what might work for those who might have gone with a fat bike. These "mid-fat" platforms in 26". 27.5", and 29" sizes might have enough of the traits of a fat bike without the weight and nimbleness penalties that you may want to get a plus bike instead.

Plus bikes exhibit a modicum of float, have a bit of the stability of fat bikes, yet they tend to keep some of the playful, nimble characteristics of their "regular" tire sized mountain biking siblings. Let's say that you commute in Winter in an area that gets "some" Winter, but isn't socked in with snow all the time. Or let's say that you might be doing a lot of off roading in looser terrain, but a fat bike seems too ponderous. Perhaps you are one of many folks that are sensitive to how far apart your pedals are and fat bikes just hurt you. Then a "plus" bike might actually be a better choice.

Maybe a "regular mtb" will get you where you want to go.
The Case For The "Regular Mountain Bike":

Then there might be a lot of great reasons not to buy a fat bike at all. many times a 29"er of good 27.5"er hard tail will do 90% of what you want and have other good applications that a fat bike doesn't have. They can be really light in comparison to a fat bike at many price points. Wheels can be far lighter and this may be a great reason to stick with a regular mtb. The aforementioned "Q" factor issues that fat bikes have are non-issues with regular mtb's, plus a mtb can usually adapt to road and gravel uses better than a fat bike can.

Prices for tires? That is a huge advantage with regular mtb's and choices are far greater in that realm as well. Fenders, racks, and other accessory items are often easier to get and fit to regular mtb's also. When it comes to suspension, regular mtb's have fat bikes beat hands down. That isn't even a question.

Now of course, you could get a fat bike anyway, and add it to your quiver of bikes, but for the person for whom a fat bike is maybe an iffy proposition, these alternatives might prove to be better choices in the end.