Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday News And Views

The Spurcycle Multi-Pouch
High Tech Sandwich Bag:

Okay, I have a preponderance for using the "dirt bag way" when it comes to a lot of things. Take Trans Iowa, for instance, where I have used plastic shopping bags from various stores we frequent as recycled race bags for the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Or my penchant for using a sandwich bag for my cell phone and money when I go out on a ride.

I'm not here to go in to a deep psychological search for the reasons why I am the way I am, but I will say that when something comes around that purports to be better than a "dirt bag way", then I am skeptical. I was quite skeptical when Spurcycle sent over this "Multi-Pouch" dealio to me to try out. I know sandwich baggies have limitations. The lifespan of a sandwich baggie isn't long, but they are el-cheapo, so I can forgive that flaw. Where you have sandwich making going on for school children, there is a steady supply of those plastic thing-a-ma-bobs. But, some aren't very durable and leak. Some have malfunctioning zipper locks. But......they are so cheap and plentiful! 

Actually, I once got a hold of a couple of those heavy duty baggies that Skratch Labs was sending along with their product. Those were awesome when phones were smaller. Not so much now. I have had some other phone holder thingies but none of them were exactly what I wanted. For one thing, in my humble opinion, a cell phone is to be buried as deeply into your kit as possible, not prominently displayed on your handlebars. Better to leave it behind, in my opinion. But that's me being all dirt-bag-ish.

Well, hat said, the Multi-Pouch is pretty cool, if a bit on the spendy side for a high-tech sandwich baggie. Check out the review I did on it on RidingGravel.com here


Gentrified Fat Bikers rejoice.. Behold! The $345.00 boot from 45NRTH
 45NRTH Collaboration With Red Wing Yields Expensive Boot:

Wolvhammers are one thing, but make the outsole out of leather sourced from Red Wing and add a gauche white sole and you have the latest money-separating-from-wallet item for fat bikers this season.

The style statement from the 45-ers up nort will cost you $345.00 big ones. That's a lot of cabbage to look fashionable. But.......at least you can clip in to your Spuds! 

Look, I'm not a big believer in clipping in for Winter rides in real snow and ice. Flats work well, remove the possibility of a "heat sink" effect on your feet, especially if you use nylon composite pedals, and you can get a foot down and get going a lot easier with flats. But that's me. It just makes a lot more sense to my mind to use flats and in my experience, it has proven out. But you could use this fashion statement on flats too, couldn't you?

Yes, you could, but if that's how you are going to roll in Winter, you could arguably buy two pair of boots for the price of these, keep your feet as warm if not warmer, and look mahvelous dahling! 

Meh! Fahgeddaboudit. It's probably just the "dirt bagger" which is coming out in me here.

A Note On The Rookie Registration:

One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday's Trans Iowa v14 update on Registration. I wanted to say that since the outcome of the Rookie registration will certainly be a lottery drawing, I am not posting names of Rookies on the Roster page. 

I will provide a page where Rookie names will be listed so you know if the card sent made it and who is in the running for the 50 available spots.It will also keep tabs on the number of Rookies in the running.

So, stay tuned for the updates and look for the link to the Lottery Page on the Trans Iowa v14 site.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: Registration Update

New and improved now with date and place!
Okay, the second phase of registration is over! The first was for past Winners and people who had done more than six Trans Iowas, dubbed "Plus Six". Then it was those who had finished a Trans Iowa or were a veteran rider of the event who got a crack at it. Both folks in each group had to be "active" Trans Iowa riders- meaning anyone that had ridden post-T.I.v8. Anyone having ridden in an older TI and never past V8 would have to reapply as a Rookie, winner, finisher, or veteran.

So, here's how things shook out. The Winners/Plus Six group left six spots on the table. Those got kicked down to the Vets/Finishers group who then left 10 spots on the table after yesterday's registration period for that group concluded. That means we have 70 folks signed on and 50 spots left for the Rookies, whose cards should start showing up today. Rookies have until October 28th to get a card in.

We have some stellar folks signed on already and it will be fun to see who will throw their hat into the ring for the first time at a Trans Iowa. Interestingly, this may be one of the biggest Rookie classes at a Trans Iowa, if they all show up in April. But.......they won't. Historically, most drops on the roster for a Trans Iowa come from the Rookie class. Last year had the potential to smash the Rookie class record at the start of a Trans Iowa, but that didn't happen by a long shot. And that's how it has been all along.

Surely some Vets/Finishers, and Winners won't show. That's inevitable, but attrition on the roster from those groups combined never equals how many Rookies drop off in a given year. In fact, there have been Rookies that have made it through the lottery two years in a row now that still haven't shown up in April. That's kind of crazy, isn't it? Oh well........

Obviously I did not have to instigate the lottery clause for the Vets/Finishers, but that definitely will happen for the Rookies. It has for the past two years and I do not see that changing this time. Of course, this is all predicated on whether or not the cards I get are filled out correctly and legibly. Last year I threw out several cards that were either not correctly filled out or that I could not read. So, if I get 50 plus readable, correctly filled out cards from the Rookie class, there will be a lottery. But then again, maybe not, if many cards are screwed up.

By the way, the penmanship on the cards I have received is "next level" stuff, for the most part. Y'all have really raised your game out there and I am impressed! I knew you folks could do it! So, the Rookies best have their "A game" on for penmanship because the bar has been set pretty high by the Winners, Vets, and Finishers!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dirt Home From Work: That Light

Mid afternoon light in the woods.
Fall- The shadows grow longer and the days grow colder and shorter in October. This is the time of year we get "that light". The Sun is in the right part of our sky now so that the light gets that diffused, golden hue during Sunny days. It gives everything a much more ethereal, dramatic look about it.

Maybe that is why Fall is so loved by many around here. It can be achingly beautiful at times. Yesterday was one of those days here in the Mid-West. In fact, we're supposedly going to have a string of days like that. Best to get out and enjoy this while the gettin' is good, because we're days away from freezing cold, and if we are to get snow, that is only weeks away, most likely.

I rode home without a jacket through the woods on my way home from work. It was perfect. 70°, no wind to speak of, that golden light, and a peaceful countenance was on the land. That won't be the case later as the winds of Winter are sure to get cranked up soon enough and the leaves will be chattering in the streets as they scurry by bare trees where they once thrived.

The only negative thing I can see about the day yesterday was those dratted Japanese beetles which are flying around all over. They look like lady bugs, but they are not, and they are far worse than those. But other than that, this weather is going to be some of the best we'll have until next Spring, in terms of warmth and comfortable bicycling.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Light 'Em Up: Part 2

Economy mode @ 150 Lumens
Yesterday I posted about this new Lezyne Power Drive 1100i light I bought. Well, I had a couple of obligations last night, but I did finally get out to buzz around the neighborhood and see what this light could do.

Of course, street lights and what not pollute the darkness so I sought out the nearby bicycle trail which is canopied in trees and gets pretty black at night. I toggled between a few of the settings and decided I liked one of them that I could live with for a lot of my gravel rides. I didn't know how powerful it was, because in my mind, knowing the numbers influences you to think you have to have "such-and-such" amount of light if the number is too low and you go higher because you think you should. The thing is, you can ride off of less light on a gravel road than you think.

Back in the day, I did a lot of light testing. I was using cheaper commuter type lights that were the norm unless you went in for the ultra-powerful mountain bike lights and their attendant expensive prices. I found a hack by getting a camping light meant to be worn on the head which I modded into a head light for my bicycle. It was rated at 110 Lumens and it probably was that for the first 10-15 minutes, then it gradually got dimmer. I did plenty of night time gravel with that light. I also used a Cat Eye and Blackburn commuter lights there for a while which were similarly powered battery units with similar light outputs.

Then I got a hold of some light, I cannot recall what it was, that had 150 Lumens, and it was so much better that I determined this is all will ever need. Of course, brighter and brighter lights have come out for very reasonable prices. I have gone up in power and still toggle back to medium settings on most lights for gravel travel.

650 Lumens here, but I don't need that much light.
I tried the higher settings but I knew I didn't need that much. I ended up settling on the third from the brightest, (This was still not counting the "Overdrive" mode, which I never did try), and I rode through some alleyways to check out if that middle setting picked up the terrain clues which I need to find the "good line". I could, so I think the middle setting was just perfect. High speed downhills might require something different, but around here those don't last all that long and generally go straight anyway.

I also have to consider that I most often would be supplementing the handle bar light with a helmet mounted one, which would also help with speedier downhills.

So, despite my having three higher settings, including that "Overdrive mode", I don't think I'll often use those. What did I end up with? Well, 150 Lumens! Just like I did a long time ago. That setting is listed as lasting 9 hours and 30 minutes without the extra battery pack. I think I'll be pretty happy with this light, and I suspect night time riding will be fun with it. Also, I should mention that the light features a mode which you can use to toggle between the Economy mode, (the one I liked best), and the Overdrive Mode, which might be useful in certain situations where max light might be necessary or advised.

Finally, a comment about the light pattern not being "car friendly" yesterday in the comment section made me think. You know, most vehicles I see are trucks and SUV's, which have higher headlights than most cars. In fact, I noticed last night that most of those vehicles headlights are only slightly below my eye level. So, I am not concerned about "blinding" an oncoming driver with 150 Lumens of light when their low level lights are almost at eye level and are more like a 1000 Lumens in intensity. Plus, I don't live in Germany where that is forbidden. And I hope to be traveling gravel at night, so traffic is almost nil out there in the country. Maybe for urban commuters, that is a concern, but it isn't for me.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Light 'Em Up

This is what I have to punch a hole through the night, only mine is silver.
Tis the season for night riding. That means you need to have a good light. The thing is, these days is that you don't need to settle for a "good light", because there are now so many great lights. 

Case in point is this new Lezyne Power Drive 1100i that I just got the other day. This light has an 1100 Lumen output at maximum output for one hour and fifteen minutes. Now, that may not sound super impressive, but that is from a self contained unit. Compare this to a Magicshine light I have which came to me via review duties about four years ago, and the Magicshine at 1100 Lumens doesn't even come close to the same form factor or in as efficient a design as the Lezyne unit.

That Magicshine light, for its day, was really a good value, at something like $200.00, while this Lezyne light costs $179.99. Okay, so.....? Well, the Magicshine light has a separate battery pack and charging unit, plus the light head is fixed in position and cannot pivot. The Lezyne light costs more, but I have a separate battery to supplement the internal battery in the unit, it charges via a simple USB cord, and the light head is positionable. Plus, the spare battery pack can be used to charge other USB charging type devices. Or I can use the external battery to lengthen my run times on the light.

The Magicshine simply cannot compete with that. The Magicshine is still produced, by the way, and its basic feature set and limitations make it less expensive today. You can get one for a little over $100.00.

That's just one example, and the lighting color, intensity, and the heat given off are all improved as well with this newer technology. It's amazing to me because I remember the day when you had to shell out about a grand for light this intense and it came with a ballast and a water bottle sized battery. That wasn't all that long ago either. Now you can spend a little over a hundred bucks and light 'em up all night long if ya want to. It's just crazy how good lights for night riding are these days.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: Quick Update On Registration

As registration rolls on I wanted to get an update out there as a way to explain the situation as we sit now and what could happen. 

The Vets/Finishers segment is limited to 61 entrants this year since we kicked down 6 entries from Winners/Plus Six category. As of today, there are 34 entrants in the Vets/Finishers segment. This segment's window closes on October 18th. That's three days to come up with 27 cards, which wouldn't be out of the question, which would fill this category. If I get 28 more cards, or more, there will be a lottery for the 61 spots

So, if your name is on the roster, don't get too comfy. There may be some more to this if I get 62 cards or more and someone is going to get booted and someone is going to get lucky and get in who didn't have there name on the roster for a few days.

I marked all Vet/Finisher names with a "V/F", just to help make things clear.

Questions? Hit me up in the comments.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 41

The Lenz Lunchbox I got to ride at Interbike in 2007 thanks to Mike Curiak
Ten years ago this week on the blog I shared an image of the Lenz Lunchbox belonging to Mike Curiak that he brought for me to ride at Interbike. This was the bike with the "super-secret" tires on it that Niner Bikes mistakenly showed on the floor of Interbike that year when they were not supposed to.

In a fitting irony, the testers of the then unnamed tire decided that this design wasn't cutting it and a new design was worked out instead. Unfortunately, by the time the eleventh hour decision was made to change directions, the first design was tooled up and ready to go. This first tire was known as the "Kodiak 2.5"" tire.

The second design, deemed much better by nearly all who ever had ridden both designs, was called the "Descent 2.5"" tire. So, what about the Kodiak was it that became ironic? Well, the very company that exposed the design too early ended up buying the entire production run of the Kodiaks. Niner sold them on their long travel 29"er. They also sold them separately.

I remember asking Curiak why the first design was panned and he said something to the effect that the Kodiak was too much of a "one trick pony". It was only really an effective design in one specific condition and area where the Descent was a much more versatile tire. In the end, the Kodiak and the Descent were too far ahead of their time. Only now, ten years down the road, are we finally seeing a push to make big, tough, voluminous 29"er tires for trail riding on long travel 29"ers.

The Trek Slash 9.7 29"er. See any similarities to the Lenz?
That Lenz bike was also ten years ahead of its time. Of course, we now have better wheels, tires, and forks to make the idea work. The "geometry du jour" is different, yes, but this Trek Slash owes a lot of its DNA to the groundbreaking work of Devin Lenz and Mike Curiak. Lenz and Curiak were doing stuff in '07 that many in the industry were saying was impossible to do. Yet there they were, largely ignored, and yet making a fully capable, high performing platform which was doing the job with big wheels that others could only pull off at the time with 26" wheels.

Looking back on that day I got to ride that bike, I had little idea that I was riding something from the future. The tires, the deep travel, the capable geometry which, by the way, was so different from the then current thinking on geometry that it could be thought of as being from another planet. Curiak purposefully held back any specific geometry information from me until well after I had ridden the bike, because he knew that had I known the numbers up front it would have colored my impressions of the bike. He was right, because those geo numbers, which would be considered tame by today's standards, were so outside of the box, circa 2007, that I would have laughed at him had I known what they were ahead of time.

It is no small feat then, and in no way hyperbole to say that the Lenz Lunchbox was a game changer. Devin Lenz went on to make a 7" travel bike dubbed the "PBJ" and it further pushed the boundaries of 29"ers. Now everyone is being taken aback by all this big wheeled intrusion into DH and enduro territory, but the mold was cast ten years ago, and I got to ride the prototype.

Thanks Mr. Lenz and Mr. Curiak! I never would have believed it then, but you two helped usher in an era of big wheelers that is nothing short of amazing.