Saturday, January 31, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: Special Statement On E-mail

Recently I was contacted by one of the Rookie entrants in this upcoming Trans Iowa who was afraid that they had missed out on getting an e-mail or two concerning Trans Iowa. Now of course, you Veterans and Finishers of past Trans Iowas know the drill, so if you want to tune out now, please go ahead......or not. You might be interested in the "why" of what I do or do not do.

In this age of The World's History, I have found that the internet has drastically altered our lives, and much of this can be seen as "digital litter" which captures our attention and, in the end, wastes a bunch of our very limited time allotted to us on this Rock. (Facebook anyone?) So, in my inimitable way, I have decided to be less of an intrusion in your already information packed life.

That said, I did ask for your e-mail address when I had you send in a post card for Trans Iowa V11 registration. Why? It is for one reason alone, really, and that has to do with the Pre-Race Meat-Up. There will be an e-mail going out soon with all the details of the pre-event goings on and this will include times, places, and a schedule of events. There will also be a question about eating at the Grinnell Steakhouse. You should only get one e-mail, and have to respond to it. That's it.

Now- if you do not respond, or your e-mail address turns up bad, I will be doing more via social media to reach you to get an answer. Also........

If you are not going to be able to be at the start line of Trans Iowa V11, PLEASE LET ME KNOW ASAP!!

This is very important. If I end up doing a bunch of extra work, and my volunteers stuff bags for people that don't show up for any reason, that is not cool. Please let me know if life or injury, or disinterest.....whatever it may be- prevents you from being at Trans Iowa. Thank you!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Plunking Around

Sidewalk crusin'
Take a look at this image. If I told you I snapped this on March 29th, you wouldn't bat an eyelash. Hardly a trace of snow to be seen, grass is getting greener, and my son isn't bundled up like an astronaut going for a space walk. But no......

This was snapped yesterday, on January 29th! And this isn't just some weird, short lived "January Thaw" kind of deal. Nope! It's been like this off and on all Winter long. Oh sure......we've had below zero. We've had snow, but it never lasts for very long. In fact, we've been above freezing so much during the daylight hours, (and often through the night as well), that the ground is unfreezing in several places. This has left mud holes, standing water, and has caused the grass to start turning green already!

The last time I mentioned that we had been enjoying great, warmish weather, it snowed 4.5"s the next day or so, and it wouldn't surprise me if we had that happen again, but really, we have a month and maybe another half a month after that of possible Winter weather. Whatever comes cannot last long before the Sun wins and Spring settles in to the Mid-West.

Mud hole action up at the neighborhood cemetery.
Well, whatever the deal ends up being, right now all I know is that we have a season of "early Spring" sandwiched between bursts of Winter that last a few days to a week or so at a time. So, that has meant that we haven't had any sledding chances, no XC skiing, and Winter time fat biking chances have been fleeting. I finally figured that my son and I may as well make the best of it. So, we went plunking around in search of mud and puddles.

I directed our ride up to the neighborhood cemetery. It is an old one, (for the Mid-West), and has graves dating back to the 1850's or older, perhaps. The really old limestone grave stones are nigh to unreadable. Too weathered to make out any details now. The way I figure, this cemetery was at the outskirts of the city up on a small hill, so it wouldn't get flooded by the Black Hawk Creek, which isn't too far away from it. Now it is in the middle of the city, more or less, and since it had rustic beginnings, not many of the lanes inside the cemetery are paved. In fact, there is some dirt road and pea sized gravel lane in there, plus a sizable amount of grassy field that lies low and wasn't developed into grave sites for fear of flood waters. Perfect for a couple of plunkers like us.

We observed wind damage which was evidenced by the hulks of blown down trees laying over the chain link boundary fence here and there. Then we cruised some mud holes and puddles, finally finishing up on a couple of wet, pot holed alleyways on the way back home. I couldn't stay out too long as I am still not 100% healthy yet. But, it was good to get out with my son and fiddle around on fat bikes for a spell.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Origin 8 Gary Sweep OS Bar: First Impressions

Mounted up and ready to ride on the Salsa Cycles Vaya
Tuesday I introduced the Origin 8 Gary Sweep OS Bar to you readers. Yesterday I got around to mounting everything up with some new to me Gevenalle GX levers/shifters and all that on my older Salsa Cycles Vaya. (More on the Gevenalle GX shifters on soon.)

This post will focus on the Origin 8 bar. Specs can be found in my previous post HERE.

Mounting up the bar was easy. I didn't have any issues finding the "sweet spot" for the levers to sit at. One thing I will say is that I have become spoiled by those bars, (like the Cowbell), that have graduations on each drop to better align the levers. That said, it wasn't too tough to figure it out. I did notice that due to the tight radius from the tops to the hooks, getting the brake cable to lay up on the bar the way I wanted created a bit tighter curve than I'd like, but this is not much different from the Woodchipper, which also features this issue.

From the saddle.
Getting a slight downward tilt to the extensions resulted in a bit more downward tilt to the long ramps than maybe I'd like, but since I spend most of my time in the drops, this isn't too big of a concern. The more "open radius" to the hooks causes this. The Woodchipper is "radical" in this way so that if you set the ramps up level, the extensions almost point down to the bottom bracket. For my tastes, this makes the extensions unusable. While the Luxy Bar has a more symmetrical radius to the hooks, and makes everything line up really well, the Gary Sweep isn't quite that way. Still, it strikes a middle ground and it is far better than the Woodchipper in this regard.

Reaching the brake lever from the drops is easy. That is definitely important! The extensions are nice and long. Once again- if you think they are too long, saw them off shorter. It is rather difficult to "go the other way" and add length! So, I am happy to see that the Gary Sweep accommodates both short and long extension camps. The levers certainly lean in, but not really too much- certainly not as much as the Luxy Bar would make them lean inward. I think this leaves the hoods as a very useable and comfortable perch for your hands.

The tops, which are very reminiscent of the Woodchipper's tops, are wide and provide a good place for the hands wile grinding out a long grade, or for simply just cruising to relieve your back a bit, if necessary. Once again, not having a wide, 31.8mm section makes for awkward accessory positioning. In fact, from just about where I stopped taping to about 3/4's of an inch away from the face plate is tapered, which makes secure mounting of things like a computer, lights, or aerobars nigh unto impossible. This is the only major oversight I have found with the Gary Sweep OS so far.

Initial test riding revealed a compliant nature and a good chance that these will satisfy in the ergonomic department. I'd like to put in several hours on this before I make any judgments on that though.

Note: The Gary Sweep OS Bars were purchased with my own moolah and these opinions and viewpoints are mine alone. I am not being compensated for any of this. So there......

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Origin 8 Gary Sweep OS Bar: A New Alt Drop Bar

The off-road drop bar market has been a small, micro-niche of cycling for years. In the earlier days you had Charlie Cunningham bending Cinelli bars to his will, and then WTB and Nitto played along for awhile. With a gap of several years with no new off road drops available, On One kicked things off again with the Midge Bar, heavily influenced by the previous WTB offering. Then things got a little crazy. WTB released a revised, but not much-loved Dirt Drop, Origin 8 came out with a Midge-like knock off dubbed the Gary Bar, and Salsa Cycles introduced the Woodchipper. Finally, a briefly available but now coveted bar, dubbed the Luxy Bar, made its appearance. So, at one time there were five off road drop bar models out there recently.

That's contracted down to three until recently. Origin 8 quietly introduced another offering in their Winter catalog to dealers. It is dubbed the "Gary Sweep OS" bar. Of all of Origin 8's Gary Bar variants over the years, this bar, in my opinion, is by far their best effort. That said, let's take a closer look at it and then I'll make some observations.......

This, by my count, is the third of the Gary Bar variants- the Gary Sweep OS.

The "sweep" in the name of this bar refers to the 15 degree swept out extensions.
Nice length to the extensions and the hooks aren't too deep.
Specs: Origin 8 doesn't give too much here in the way of spec on the packaging, saying only that the bar is made from 6060 T6 alloy, has a "flared out" grip area, is 610mm wide, and has a 31.8mm clamp diameter. Here are the measurements I took from the bar using a tape measure and an angle finder app on my iPhone:
  • Tip-to-Tip across the ends of the swept portion of the bar, the Gary Sweep measures 636mm/25".
  • Tops measure 433mm/17" between the drops.
  • Flare: The hooks are flared out at 58° to the outside.
  • Sweep: The extensions are swept outwards at 15° from a typical road bar position.
  • Reach: Approximately 85mm
  • Drop: Approximately 105mm
  • Weight: 320 grams.
Observations: My initial impressions were that the Gary Sweep OS is like a cross between a Woodchipper and a Luxy Bar. The tops are wide, the bend to the ramps is about 90° to the top, and the radius of the hook is similar to a Woodchipper. The reach, drop, and flare are more akin to the Luxy though. Sweep of the extensions is not as radical, nor is the flare as radical as the Luxy Bar.

If you have to ride the hoods primarily and love a road bike's position, do not get this bar. The ramps and flare of the hooks will cant the hoods inward and you will not get the levers to set in anywhere near the same position as a road bike's. The Woodchipper is a much better bar to choose if you want the hoods like that. While the sweep and flare are not as radical as a Luxy Bar's were, the levers will "lean in" when properly mounted on the Gary Sweep OS. If the Luxy seemed just too radical to you, these may be your bar.

I like the drop and reach, which is reminiscent of the Luxy Bar's measurements, however, the radius is slightly more "open" than the Luxy Bar's was, and the ramps are slightly different as well. We'll see how that plays out once I set these up with some levers. I do miss the tops being 31.8mm across the entire length, which I thought was a brilliant idea that Brant Richards used when he designed the Luxy Bar. The Gary Sweep OS is bar end compatible and sells for about $50.00-$70.00, give or take. (As seen quoted on

I'll be mounting these up on a bike here real soon and after a ride or two I hope to come back with some impressions. Stay tuned......

Note: The Gary Sweep OS Bars were purchased with my own moolah and these opinions and viewpoints are mine alone. I am not being compensated for any of this. So there......

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blackborow DS: Front Brake Cable Mod

A glaring fault with 2015 Mukluks and Blackborows
I've perhaps been a bit over-enthusiastic about my 2015 Blackborow DS, and if you've been cruising around here since last November, you might agree. Most everything about the bicycle I am pretty happy about. There is one mighty glaring negative to the "happy-happy-joy-joy" though, and that is how Salsa decided to route the front brake housing/cable, or in the case of hydraulic Mukluk set ups, the brake hose.

In all cases, the cable/hose routing runs to the inside of the fork leg at a point that is within millimeters of the widest part of the tire casing. Not only that, but as the cable/hose enters the cable guide from above, it tends to come within a whisker of contacting the tire.

Only through a judicious shortening of the stock cable, or by adding an unsightly cable tie, can you avoid having the front brake housing/hose hit the tire. This would not be a "deal breaker" if the cable guide had been mounted a bit further up the fork leg, so as to avoid the widest part of the tire casing, but as you can plainly see by my images, that is not the case on the Blackborow, nor is it much different on current Mukluks. This placement causes mud, snow, ice, and dirt to accumulate right where you don't want it to, clogging the fork and in extreme cases, it can stop the front wheel from rotating freely. I know- there was this one foray into a muddy, clay filled construction site, and....... You get the picture.

Another look without the wheel in place.
Furthermore, the stainless steel guide, which is attached by a nice button head Allen bolt to a threaded boss in the fork blade, cuts into the housing as it sways around above the guide due to bumpy terrain and steering inputs. From the standpoint of being an "out of bounds", adventuring bike, this design for the brake hose/housing guide seems to be a poor one, in my opinion.

I decided to defer to the design choice for a while to see if it was just me, or if it was actually going to be a problem that I would have to be concerned with. On all fronts mentioned, I turned out to be correct in my initial analysis. That meant that I needed to make a modification, and I had a pretty good idea of what it was that would rectify the problems. This post outlines a really simple, easy solution that anyone should be able to employ to make their 2015 Mukluk or Blackborow with a rigid Salsa fork a better bike.

NOTE: Before I continue I should say that this is a modification of the brake cable housing/hose guide only. It may or may not void a warranty, and is not advocated by Salsa Cycles, so consult with your Salsa Cycles dealer ahead of doing anything before making this mod. Also- Unless you are comfortable doing some handiwork with a hammer and vice, and if you are not very skilled as a craftsman, you should defer to a more talented person or take this idea to the local bike shop.

Okee-doekee? Let's move on then..........

You'll need a plastic covered "P-clamp", a ball peen hammer, and something round, steel, and that is approximately 5mm in diameter. 
After gathering the parts and tools above, flatten the "P-clamp" out by first bending it apart by hand until you can flatten it out with a hammer on a flat steel surface, like the vice above. Then, using the rounded end with the pre-made hole as a guide, hold the flattened "P-clamp" up to the mounting bolt for the brake guide, center the bolt in the hole in the end of the "P-clamp", and holding the flattened "P-clamp parallel to the ground as the bike sits on the floor, note where the flattened end of the "P-clamp" clears the fork blade to the rear of the bike. Mark this point with a Sharpie or a small piece of tape. This is where you will want the "P-clamp" to start a loop to hold the cable housing/brake hose. The loop you will put into the "P-clamp" must clear the back of the fork leg, so measure twice- bend once!

Your formed "P-clamp" should look something like this when you are done.
 Start bending the strip of plastic covered metal at the point you determined from the step above. Using your 5mm diameter steel object, (I chose a Torx wrench, as seen above), bend the "P-clamp as closely as you can around the steel form. Once you get around past 90 degrees or so, you can start using the ball peen hammer to bend the strap further and form it more closely to conform with the radius of your steel form.

This might be the most difficult part for many of you, so if you are not comfortable wielding a hammer on a vice to form metal, you may want to seek out assistance with this step.  It is critical that the opening you, (or whomever does the work), forms is round and not ovalized. Otherwise it doesn't matter how it looks unless you are OCD about how things look. Then, well.......that's another story. You will notice that in my example the ends overlap. I needed to trim off the "shorter" tab.

Trimmed, deburred and ready to install.
I actually "over-engineered" this idea by drilling a 3mm hole into the overlapping ends, flaring the hole, tapping it, and bolting it together, thinking I didn't want the overlapping ends to be pulled apart while riding, but you will see here in a minute that this wasn't necessary. So, I have an extra hole in mine for no reason, but it is lighter this way. <===Har-har!

Anyway, I bent the overlapping, shorter tab upward and trimmed it back with some heavy duty end cutters. I then deburred that with a file, and also rounded off any other sharp edges. After I was satisfied that I had everything as good as I could make it, I went ahead and installed the new brake cable housing/hose guide in place using the same button head bolt that came with the original guide.

Hmm.....well, I shouldn't have drilled and tapped that extra hole- since it was unnecessary, but there it is.....
With the new guide installed, it became apparent that I didn't need the extra security of another fastener, since the overlapped portion is trapped under the outer part of the clamp and the fork blade. It is highly unlikely it will ever pull apart. So, if I had this to do over again, I would skip that extra part of the process and use the simpler idea instead. Above the new clamp you can see the damage done by the original guide to the brake housing. This will be impossible with my new guide since it doesn't clamp directly on to the housing and is plastic coated. But that isn't all......

Perfectly out of the way now!
By routing the cable housing behind the fork blade, the profile of the fork blade is cleaned up and clearance is enhanced. Now the only thing that can gather muck is the button head fastener and the thickness of the flattened "P-clamp" that sticks out just a bit from the inside of the fork blade.

You'll also note that the entrance from above to the guide is placed well away from the tire, not as it is with Salsa's solution, and there is no way that the cable will ever come in contact with the tire in this arrangement. One unforeseen advantage to setting up the brake cable/hose guide this way was that now I do not have to thread the Anything Cage straps around the brake cable housing, but I can route those straps underneath and directly onto the fork blade. This may help to avoid further damage to cable housings down the road.

Take away my extra hole gaff, and this solution is far superior to the stock arrangement in every way. It enhances tire to fork clearances, and it is safer, in my opinion, since there is no way the guide can damage the cable housing, nor is there any further cause for concern with the tire snagging the cable housing at some point. Plus, the cost to make this improvement is a simple "P-clamp" and a bit of time.Plus, if you use a new "P-clamp" and don't drill the extra hole, yours will look better than mine does. So, ya know- there is that to shoot for as well!

I've got to say that this detail is curious as it comes stock from Salsa. Looking at the Makwa carbon fork, or the previous steel Enabler fork shows elegant solutions that are functional and clean as far as cable routing goes. At least it is an easy to fix flaw in an otherwise great bike. If you have any questions about what I did here, feel free to e-mail me at or leave a comment in the comments section. I'll answer your questions the best I know how.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Gravel On The RAGBY

Did Steve Hed like gravel road riding.....?
The big RAGBRAI route announcement party happened over the weekend and normally I only cock an eye sideways at this deal, since where the route goes does affect me for several months. Close to home and we're busy, far from home......not so much. So, while I casually cruised social media to see where the route overnight towns might be, I was messaged by a fellow gravelist, ("gravelluer"?....hmm...), that the RAGBY was going to honor Steve Hed with an optional 15 mile gravel road route tacked on to the second day of the week's festivities.

"Okay, that's pretty cool", I think. Then I think...."There probably are not many typical RAGBY riders that even know why this loop was added on gravel."  Then I thought, "Only FIFTEEN miles!" Sheesh! Someone of Steve Hed's stature surely deserves a full day's gravel route option, doesn't he? If you knew that Steve was a big proponent of gravel/rural/backroad riding, then you'd probably agree. He was not only a lover of that sort of riding, but his company, HED Wheels, actively supported the gravel racing scene.

Just look at the sticker he had made for his own personal gravel sled shown at the 2013 Interbike trade show. It says, "Gravel Nation", a moniker I hadn't seen before until I saw Steve's bike. He obviously saw himself as a part of that sort of thing, and he was, in fact, a huge part of it, although most cyclists would probably have never pigeon-holed him as such a rider.

Obviously a lot of fancy-pants road bikes will be there at the RAGBY slinging HED wheels, which are coveted for their aerodynamic properties. However; while that's Steve Hed's legacy in cycling, it isn't where his heart was. (I know- he told me this himself.) He was an adventurer, raised on the dusty roads of Minnesota, and he still was looking forward to many more miles of gravel, dirt, chip seal, and wherever the path may have taken him on an adventure. Unfortunately, he left us behind on an adventure of a different kind.

The RAGBY route comes to our metro area this year, so I suppose I'll be busier than last year. I'll be stuck in the shop, cranking out repairs, I am sure. I hope to not be so busy that I can't get out and put in a good, adventurous gravel ride in the day of his memorial loop. I figure it's the right thing to do.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules Part 18

 Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".

 Last week I talked about the cell phone rule HERE, now it's on to a rule about "being in it together".

20: Racers can help other racers with mechanical support. We are not doing this event to leave someone out in the boonies of Iowa.

The "self-supported" thing was something really new for most folks coming to Trans Iowa early on. What did that mean? This was why this rule was put into the original set of rules set out by Jeff Kerkove back in 2004. It was to help define how far "self-supported" went.

We were getting a lot of early questions and many assumptions that due to the nature of the event, you as a rider could not even help another rider out in case of mechanicals. Of course, we weren't wanting it to be that way. So this rule was written to make sure anyone undertaking Trans Iowa would know that assistance, as long as it came from another rider in the event, was okay. This became different things as the event matured and riders began to interpret this rule through the years.

Rule #20 in action during T.I.V8
Of course, the original intention for the rule has persisted all along. If someone flats, your riding partner at the time is kind of expected to offer assistance. It's a "gentleman's agreement", but it is in the spirit of the event and is in the spirit of Rule #20.

However; "assistance" has grown to also include other things. The first time I recall seeing this in action was at T.I.v3 when Majiec Nowak, of "Team Polska", downloaded his remaining supplies for his mates to take on as they continued after he dropped out. I then was made aware of how small enclaves of riders were forming and helping to encourage each other through the evening hours of the event. In fact, this started happening right out of the gate at Trans Iowa V1.

Later, I would hear how certain folks would rely on a single individual to navigate by the cue sheets as the rest would simply grind out the miles and follow. However; this can be quite dangerous as we have learned. On several occasions, the designated navigator would start to become so fatigued that they would make mistakes and lead several others astray. Sometimes to the tune of several miles. Although this "assistance" is not recommended, it happens every year at T.I.

The result of Rule #20, by accident really, is that by it- and the nature of the event- riders have bonded in special ways out there as they have encountered difficulties, been broken down, and somehow still forge on to finish. The friendships and special feelings that this has resulted in may be one of Trans Iowa's greatest attributes.

Next Time: Getting off-line and back again.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Boo Bicycles Visits

Prototype carbon lugged, bamboo fat bike from Boo Bikes
Yesterday we were graced by the presence of Adam Blake of Boo Bicycles from Fort Collins, Colorado. He stopped by the shop to show off this beautiful carbon lugged bamboo fat bike prototype. If you raced at Triple D, you also may have gotten a glimpse of it.

Adam also chatted us up about Boo Bicycles and what the deal is with the bamboo sections of the frame. On this fat bike, the bamboo extends underneath the carbon overlay so that the chain stays, seat stays, top tube, and down tube are all full length bamboo tubes. The carbon is then wrapped and formed over the bamboo to join the tubes and stiffen them in these critical areas. The seat tube is fully carbon, as is the head tube. This composite structure has unique ride characteristics and attributes that neither a full bamboo or carbon fiber frame can attain to. We were told the fat bike is still a work in progress and that the final iteration for production may vary from what we saw in some fairly significant ways. Stay tuned there.....

There was a lot more discussed than just this fat bike. Adam told us to watch for a shift in focus from Boo Bikes which will be revealed very soon. Also, I have some things cooking regarding Boo Bicycles and perhaps some collaboration with The second and third sentences may or may not be related. (<====HA!)

Stay tuned for more details............

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday News And Views

The Sun sets on another year......
Another Trip Around The Sun:

Today kicks off another trip around the Sun for me and this one will be a potentially pretty exciting one. Leaving last year behind, with being sick on several occasions, getting hit by a truck, and with all the changes at the end of the year- well, if the coming year is just calmer, it would be better! However; I have some exciting new things to do and to learn about, some of which has already been kicking into gear here starting with the new year. has already proven to be fun and a game changer for me. I have been less stressed in regard to having to be an editor, reviewer, and organizer, so that's been a big plus and a change I am still getting accustomed to. Riding Gravel Radio Ranch has been fun, and a learning experience. So far, the response has been very positive to it, which is quite encouraging. Now my focus is not going to be torn away from gravel riding, which I have missed doing a lot of, and which will be happening a lot more in the coming year.

There also is potential for some bigger and better things regarding, and that's encouraging for me as well. Hopefully the being sick so far this year will go by the wayside and I can get on with all of those things and more. Spending time with my wife and two children is a big priority also, and the extra time opened up by the changes made so far should help that situation out as well. So, we go again!

2010- The last time I looked at this view from a bicycle saddle...

Many of you don't know that I have thrown my hat into the ring to ride 200 miles in Kansas at the end of May. Yep.......I will be riding the Dirty Kanza 200

The last time I was there I succumbed to heat related issues at Checkpoint #1. 2010 was the year that the heat and wind was really intense and many were cooked that year, not just myself. However; I've never crossed that finish line, and I have to check that box off my list. I figured that I am not getting any younger, so........ 

Next, I want to say that I am 100% sure I am not the first person to think about this, and I am sure more than a few are going to dedicate their 2010 DK200 effort to this as well, but my ride at the Dirty Kanza will be in memory and dedicated to Joel Dyke.

Then I want to say that you can also expect me to resurrect my "Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles", which I wrote as a training log for an aborted attempt at the 2011 DK 200, which didn't happen due to a family vacation to El Paso Texas to see family. Things will kick into gear as soon as I get my "medical clearance" from Mrs. Guitar Ted to start putting in some gravelly rides this Winter and Spring.

GTDRI 2014 course will be conquered in 2015!
Announcing Part 2......

And while I am at it, let's get this out- The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational will happen Saturday, July 25th out of backbone State Park. I have a score to settle there as well.

While it wouldn't have been pretty, I was well on my way to finishing that course last Summer when the aforementioned truck hit me at Mile 95. That obviously stopped the proceedings right then and there. I figure this needs to be put to bed the right way, so the same exact course will be run again, only this time with a much better outcome.

A Word About The Ride: I've had people come up and tell me that they would like to join this ride, but that they were not "invited". are invited! Much like the Pirate Cycling League's "Gravel World's" is a tongue in cheek naming of a fun gravel race, so it is with the GTDRI. It is a pretentious name for a no-drop, anyone can come if they want to gravel grinder. So, don't tell me you didn't come because "I wasn't invited", because you are. Just show up at Backbone State Park ready to ride at 6:00am. Done!

And with that, I wish you all a fantastic weekend and hope you all get out and ride!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Trailblazered Fargo

They fit well, are an interesting ride, but still not sold on it......
So this idea of fitting the Trailblazer B+ tires to the Fargo Gen 2 bike got started on earlier than I had wanted to, due to the illness and all. I had time I had to fill that otherwise would have been spent riding. Yesterday I was "confined to quarters" by Mrs. Guitar Ted, but I just had to do a short loop as a test since conditions were ripe for finding out what I wanted to know.

What did I want to find out? Well, I'll list out a few things that have been on my mind concerning the concept overall and these Trailblazer tires specifically.
  • Float: 29+ has a decent quality for float- well, at least the 29+ Knards do that well. Do the Trailblazers have a similar quality?
  • Stability: Would the B+ tires have lateral stability, or would they slide sideways and be hard to control?
  • Would this set up be suitable for a long, gravel/backroad event? 
  • Is the bottom bracket too low with this wheel system?

Red arrows point to the track of the B+ Trailblazers in the mud.
The advantages of going out now for testing were that there are plenty of saturated muddy places and some slushy snowy tracts to test out how the B+ Trailblazers act on these difficult surfaces. I have noted that 29+ has a tendency to float up on top and also that those wheels would tend to slide sideways a bit, making for a bit more difficult handling.

The Trailblazer has a rather flattish crown to the tread area whereas the Knard is very rounded, almost a "peaked C shaped" crown to the tread. The difference in how they track through mud is noticeable. The Trailblazer sort of "sucks" the center part of whatever soft surface it is covering and tries to pull it up as the tire rotates off the soil or snow. Note the area I have highlighted with the red arrows to the left. If you click on the image, you can get a larger image to see this more clearly.

While the Trailblazer "cut" into the soil maybe more than a Knard does, it also adhered to the slippery surfaces better and did not demonstrate such a tendency to want to lose lateral stability. So, at least in saturated soils or wet snow, you might see a better grip and handling, to a degree, which could make for a better experience.

Stability is better, but float is not quite as nice as 29+ Knards. The last two questions I will have to wait for answers to until I get a lot more riding time on this set up. I have a plan for what this might get used for now as well, but that announcement will be on hold for a bit until I have a few things confirmed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Every ride requires a lengthy cleaning session of late.
Well, with having been ill most of 2015 so far, the riding has been on the down low. (Do people still use this term? ) Anyway, since that has been the case, I have a splattering of disjointed stuff to talk about today that may or may not make sense. Let's see......

Mucky-muck: Generally we have maybe two weeks that are really a mess as far as riding goes around here. Those two weeks generally happen in March when the snow is melting and the frost works up out of the ground. Car "leavings"- things like remnants of accidents, hub caps, and bits and pieces off autos can be found since their snowy hiding places melt away, revealing the junk for all to see and run over. This is typical March type fare for city riding around here. Well, that is exactly how it has been now.

The odd January thaw, for real this time. It's been weird, and really messy. My commute to work is across some grassy fields, parkways, and in some gravel parking lots. These areas are where I get mucked up the most, but even the streets are a mess these days. It makes for more maintenance work. I suppose it will freeze up again, since we are not even into February yet, and then we will get to do this all over again in March- when it is supposed to happen.

Image by Jacob Stevenson
With this strange weather we are seeing a lot of spectacular mornings and evenings. It has been fairly consistent for the past couple of weeks. Fiery skies, or pastel concerts of rose, yellow, blue, and purple. It certainly has been fun to catch these early or late atmospheric fireworks.

I've noted some folks on Facebook have picked up on this as well and I have enjoyed your posts immensely. Thanks for taking the time to post those, if you are one of the folks doing so. All across the Mid-West, West, and beyond seem to be experiencing this of late. I don't mind it one bit, but it is something to consider.
Stickered up and ready to represent


Hopefully the weather doesn't go upside down for Frostbike, (but it probably will), like it did last year when we drove through a blizzard to get there. This time I will be representing and I have gotten my kit in the mail and am all ready to go. Well......I need to line up a place to stay yet. There is that. Time to go shopping for a motel room, eh?

I will be busy doing another Riding Gravel Radio Ranch post. This time we will be talking to Trenton Raygor of the Filthy 50 gravel race. It should be a good time. I would think that the podcast will get posted later in the week. So far, in an amazing turn of events, I have gotten a lot of great feedback from doing these. It kind of reminds me of doing those old cassette tape machine "radio shows" I used to do as a kid. (If you are younger than 40 years old, never mind! You won't get that last statement.) Anyway, I like doing it and it has been fun so far. I hope to expand upon the scope of subject matter in the coming days. I'd like to get into having some racers on for chats, and maybe do something from a remote location. Possibly from an event or two. Look for things in that vein to pop up later in the year.

Oh yeah.....this section was supposed to be about Frostbike. Well, actually I will be doing some test recording there that may show up as audio on the Radio Ranch. Stay tuned.......

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

#psyck Part 3

Tired of sitting inside all weekend, I decided to break out and enjoy a Sunset. Glad I did!
Noticing a theme for 2015 so far?

Not that I wouldn't like to change that. It's been great outside, (for January), and I could have been piling on some miles. Oh well....... They say things happen for a reason. Perhaps it was a period where I needed to slow down, relax, and take it easy, and as much as I am not liking that, it may be true. Well, there is only so much I can take, so after resting all day Saturday and most of Sunday, I went out for a short jaunt on the Blackborow DS to chase down a Sunset.

I mentioned in my #psyck Part 2 post that the snow would be mostly gone by the weekend, and it was. There were a few stretches of mushy snow left here and there, but for the most part it was either completely gone, packed into ice, or forming big stretches of water. I merrily splooshed through the mud and water, trundling along in the "low range" on the Blackborow, and kept things chill. I didn't need to burn any matches, what with being sick yet, I just wanted some exercise and fresh air. Plus, the slower speeds kept the muck in check.

It always amazes me how little impact fat bikes can have on soft ground. (Note dog print in left foreground)

The Blackborow DS with its Clown Shoe 100mm rims and Lou tires really leaves little impact in comparison to anything else out there, and I know that any other bike than a wide tire type fat bike would have caused a lot of trail damage that day. Not that it matters in the Green Belt, but it is a good observation. I noted that pedestrian and dog traffic was leaving more evidence of passage, and more damage, than I was creating. In fact, all you could see in most places I rode were my tread block marks, as shown above.

You should ride this event.
This past weekend marked another running of the Triple D event in Dubuque. It is a three pronged event- when there is enough snow- and one of those is a fat bike race. I have done it three years in a row and decided to take a year off. Good thing! Seeing as how I have been under the weather for a couple weeks, I wouldn't have been able to ride it anyway.

They had record number of riders attempt the event this year, and by some estimations it was the fastest course conditions ever. Sounds good, right? Well, I admire anyone that tackled the event, but I am not sorry I missed subjecting my self and my equipment to that mudfest. Whoo-wee! The images that I saw of folks coming back in made it look as though they had been in a mud wrestling match with a herd of pigs. The bikes didn't look much better! I'm sure it was "fun" but that aftermath didn't look too great.

Let's hope that the rescheduled Iowa Winter Games fat bike event at George Wyth State Park on the 31st actually has snow. As of now, I doubt there is a whole lot left out there. Of course, you could always go to the Fatbike Frozen Forty in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Being further North, that event may have the best chances of actually being a snow event than anything down this way does this year. I probably won't get up there as it is the 14th of February and right before Frostbike, which I cannot miss. Well, unless I am still sick then! 

Which brings me back to that- If you have your health, don't take it for granted. Get out there, use it, and enjoy it while you can. I can tell you one thing- It ain't no fun sitting on the sidelines due to being ill, mudfest or no!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Salsa Cycles Anything Cage HD: An Update

The Anything Cage HD is a new version of Salsa Cycles "rack" for front forks or down tubes that is designed to carry any "roundish" object. The initial review can be found HERE. There you will learn about the cage and my initial two week test period using the cages on my Salsa Cycles Blackborow DS.

I took note of a comment in the initial introduction on Salsa's site that claimed the Anything Cage idea was rubbish for water bottles or hard cylindrical objects. Claiming that one would have issues retaining such objects and removing/replacing those objects in a secure manner, the commenter was pointing to a soft side type alternative. While that is certainly a valid way to go, the claims of poor security and usefulness of the Anything Cage HD for water bottles or hard, cylindrical objects has been disproven in my experience since I have posted my initial review.

For the test I chose various vessels that had varying levels of rigidity. Stainless steel cylinders, hard plastic "insulated" bottles, and traditional water bottles for cycling were all used during this test. I even packed a water bottle in with some soft outer wear into a dry bag, making for a mixed soft/hard load, to test a "roundish" type load for good measure.

Wrapping the Anything Cage straps twice around the bottles worked great.
I'll admit that one of my reservations in using the Anything Cage HD was a possibility of not having the capability to carry water bottles along on the fork blades. For me, that has been a great way to get water off my back and on the bike, making for a less stressed body after a long day in the saddle. I assumed that if I could make the Anything Cage HD work with water bottles, I would lose the ability to grab a bottle on the go from the fork, but at least I could possibly have that amount of water to switch out to a place I could get at it on the run. I assumed an ability to quickly switch out bottles without unnecessarily undoing the straps and re-lacing them again. If that couldn't happen, I would deem the experiment a failure.

Happily I am able to report that one does not have to totally undo the strapping, if you use the technique I employed. This involves wrapping the Salsa Anything Cage strap twice around the cage, the fork blade, and your bottle, if you use a smaller standard sized bicycle water bottle. One of the claims against using straps like the Anything Cage Straps was that they would simply slide on the smoother vessels used for water and not tighten against them to secure them. This is not an issue at all if one knows how to tighten the strap with a quick flick of the wrist. Once the strap gets a bite on the vessel it can be further snugged up if you desire by tugging, as usual, on the end of the strap. A bonus if you have a typical bottle that features the indentation for an old fashioned cage to retain a water bottle is that you can place your upper strap there to gain further assurance that you won't eject the bottle on rough terrain.

It is also important to note that I did use the strapping going only once around the bottles. This did not affect the stability or use of the bottles with the Anything Cage HD, but the resulting extra strapping was annoying and could possibly get into your spokes while riding unless you secure them. Be careful with that!  Going around twice eliminated that possibility, and probably gave me a bit of extra purchase on my loads.

I tried ejecting the bottles by going over some whoop-de-doos like these and anything rough to no avail.

Verdict: While it is true that I cannot access the bottles in the Anything Cage HD on the fork blades while riding, I can easily slightly loosen the straps by flicking the buckle upward. This loosens the straps just enough to get the bottle out. A new bottle, or the one you just removed, can be inserted into the two loops of strapping formed by carrying the previous bottle and then by simply re-tightening the straps, you are good to go. You can even swap out bottles of different diameters fairly quickly and easily.

Security of bottles held in this manner is not a concern at all. I was not able to lose a bottle, even if I left the straps loose enough to remove a bottle by hand. They did move and "jump" up and down a bit though! Still, if I was careful to strap the bottle in tightly, it never came loose. Even after days of riding. I have total faith in the security of carrying water bottles in this manner with the Anything Cage HD, and it is easy to remove and replace bottles at will, as long as you are stopped while doing so.

By the way, that dry bag with a mixed hard/soft load? Not at all an issue to carry either. So, as a wrap up, there is no real disadvantage to using an Anything Cage HD as intended on a fork blade or down tube of a bike equipped with the requisite triple bosses. If you need to haul a roundish load, or hard side cylindrical objects, as long as they fit the cage reasonably well, you should have no problems getting your cargo safely to your destination.

The Anything Cage HD's came from Salsa Cycles at no charge and I will strive to use my honest thoughts and opinions about these products here and in the future.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules Part 17

 Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".

Last week I posted about the self-suported factor and having a "pit crew of one" HERE.  This week I will discuss the use of cell phones for Trans Iowa. Let's look at the rule......

19: A cell phone is highly recommended. Make sure you know how to use it.

Okay, back in 2005 there were still a fair amount of "cell phone hold-outs". Smart phones weren't a big deal, the iPhone was still two years away, and if you had a nice cell phone, it probably was one of those smaller, "flip phones", like the Motorola Razor. They didn't do much beyond allowing you to talk and to listen to music files.

The intention for this rule then was to make sure that a rider could "call in the cavalry" if that should become necessary. Allowing for the prehistoric functionality of those earlier cell phones, and the spotty coverage, we were being rather optimistic here. Essentially, most early T.I. riders were likely really out there on their own back in those days.

That's me on the right calling in a Trans Iowa Radio post during T.I.V6
Slowly cell phones became more useful, and with Trans Iowa V5, I realized that maybe cell phones were becoming a big issue in a few ways. My first inkling was when one of our volunteers showed me his GPS function and maps- right on his phone. So, riders potentially could pinpoint right where they were at, and maybe use that to cheat? I didn't know for sure, but thoughts of riders getting cached supplies and meeting support in the hinterlands suddenly became very real possibilities.

The next thing that I figured out post-T.I.V5 was that some riders were being "coached", encouraged, and cajoled via relatives or friends during cell phone conversations. Suddenly, cell phones went from being a hoped for safety net to an outright way to cheat at Trans Iowa. I sweat over this for a bit, posted admonitions, and eventually had to let it go to a degree, since if someone really wanted to cheat in this manner, they are only cheating themselves. I think a bit of this has gone away since we started having Mountain Bike Radio host the Trans Iowa Radio call ins from riders. A very positive step in cell phone usage!

Next Week: Help A Brotha Out.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

News And Views: The Day Late Edition!

Ready for hunting season?
Niner Doesn't Do A Fat Bike:

Several days previous to Thursday of this past week, Niner Bikes was teasing a "new model" bike to be revealed the 16th. Rumors were running rampant that they would introduce a fat bike, or maybe a B+/Mid-Fat bike. Thankfully, and wisely- they did neither of those things.

Now I can hear you out there, (well......not really, but it is a figure of speech!), saying something like "why in the world would you think that they shouldn't do a fat bike?" That's easy........because everyone is doing a fat bike. Honestly- there are so many fat bikes now I cannot imagine the marketplace has moved to seeing them as mountain bikes enough to support more entries into the market now. Later? Maybe. Things like the Bucksaw, King Kahn, and Foes new full suspension fatty might start a change there, but it will take a while.

Anywho....Niner basically evolved the three models they waved their wand over, and in a world where most companies are pushing the next big thing, it is refreshing to see a company not only refine, but push mid to entry level bikes in their line ups to new levels.

Carbon rim, knobbly tire, and tubelessness = awesome.
Fat Bike Tubeless:

I recently had the opportunity to build a set of fat bike carbon fiber rim wheels and set the tires up tubeless. Here's my take on the system- the Whiskey #9 rim, and the 45NRTH Vanhelga tires, which are rated tubeless ready.

Whiskey #9 rim: Now this isn't my first rodeo with carbon rims. I've built a few sets dating way back to 2003. I know what carbon rims feel like when built, and I have to say that the Whiskey #9 rims acted more like their metallic brethren than not. They were out of round by a tic, untrue by a tic, and one was slightly less in diameter than the other. All things not uncommon at all with run of the mill aluminum rims, but definitely not what I expected from rims that cost this much and made from carbon fiber. Does it really matter? Well, you should expect better tolerances at these prices, but really, as long as I was able to true it all up- no. It doesn't really matter. It just is. 

As for the tubeless nature of these rims, well they worked perfectly with the Vanhelgas. More on that in a bit....

Vanhelga Tires: Okay, first off, the tread pattern is aggressive, the tread blocks are soft, but they don't just fold over, and the bead talon looked really good from the aspect of being tubeless ready. I didn't weigh these, but they felt reasonably light. Now for mounting. Oh my God! The fit the first time was super tight. My hands ached for two days after mounting these with tubes to set the tape on the inside of the rim well. Oh.......and the rim tape flat out sucks. If you buy Whiskey #9 rims, you will get a roll of this worthless blue tape. Tell your wheel tech, or if you build yourself, be advised, not to use the stuff. I got it to work, but Stan's would be waaaaay better. Why? Because the Whiskey tape is stiff, non-compliant, and wrinkles if you look at it sideways. Trust me, it is one of the worst tubeless tapes I have ever been exposed to. on to the good stuff!

The tires set up with a simple floor pump. I used Dawn dish soap in a straight from the bottle application to the beads to allow them to pop into place easily. I got the beads to set up at 20psi this way. There was zero leakage from the beads or valve stem (Which is the excellent Bontrager valve stem, by the way). I used 6oz of Stan's in each tire and after a couple wrinkles in the tape were sealed up, I had no leakage after 48 hours. Good to go.

The Vanhelgas on the 70mm wide Whiskey rims were about 5mm wider than the 45NRTH Dillingers on Marge Lites and waaay lighter. A worthy upgrade here. These are not my wheels nor is it my bike, but if I get further feedback, I'll pass it along.

Bottom Line: Expensive, but effective tubeless system for fat bikes with a few "wrinkles" that need ironing out.

Snow tested.
Blackborow DS Update Coming Soon:

I have had the Blackborow DS in the snow a couple of times since I got it, but I want to see if we get some truly deep, thick snow cover before I give my final assessment on this new model from Salsa Cycles.

So far, I have seen the bike do things that I was hoping for. It is more stable due to great geometry and wider, grippier tires and wide rims. Those Lou tires have a really good roll on hard pack or pavement, but those paddles really give me greater traction than I've ever experienced on a fat bike before. The "DS" part has been rust free and has given me no worries so far. This is especially good seeing as how I have dealt with wet, "car snow" of late, which is usually the worst thing for bicycle drive trains around here.

Finally, I have taken note of a couple of negative comments left on the Salsa Anything Cage HD review I did and I have tested for those comments. A review update is coming which I think you might find very interesting from the stand point of how the straps work with non-round and smaller water bottle type loads.

Okay- that's a wrap. Have a great weekend and ride yer bikes!

Friday, January 16, 2015

#psyck Part 2 where are all the fat bike tracks?!!
Having been put out of commission for about two weeks and getting very little in the way of "fun riding" in, I have been getting a bit grumpy of late. Fortunately for those around me, I was (mostly) able to keep "Mr. Grumpypants" in check. There were a few unfiltered outbursts, but that seems to be in the past now. In fact, I can say that this flu- or whatever it is- has finally been starting to come out of me.

It has been getting good enough that I decided to risk riding to work on Wednesday and back. I'll tell ya what- that was an eye opener! My fitness has flown South with the birds in search of warmer, and healthier, weather. My heart rate was so intense going up the hill by the water tower that I allowed myself a five minute cool down period. That was going to work. Coming home I took it easy and yesterday I felt fine waking up, so at least I wasn't going backward on my health gains. Another commute to work, and this time I didn't have to take a break going.

Now after work, I was going to take "the long way home", but how long was the question. I didn't want to over do it, but I also wanted to explore what I had been missing the past week and a half or so with regard to snow opportunities on the fat bike. I figured I would find a nicely tracked in trail. As I got down on Hackett going underneath the Trolley Car Trail overpass, I saw a familiar figure with some XC skis and his wife in tow. He said something about my fat bike and said that he had seen "your tracks all over". Well......they weren't my tracks! But that bode well for finding tracked in trail. Only it didn't.

In all my meandering, I found one set of fat bike tracks and lots of ped traffic and dog paw marks. Oh well! I made some tracks, but seeing as how the temperature was 35°F yesterday, and will be that for today and tomorrow, the snow is going to take a big hit. At least I got to get in one decent ride on snow. Who knows what February will bring, but January looks to close out with little to no snow as the forecast looks a bit too warm with no precip coming, at least that's the outlook now. Hopefully my outlook is for better health in the coming days!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thinking About The "Rat Bike"

 A Raleigh Willard One at the shop where I work
Okay, if you've been poking around here for a while you already know what I think a "gravel bike" should be like. Not that you should have one like it, but it's been my ideal, if you will, cogitated over many, many miles of gravel and experiences over the years. That said, my ramblings struck a nerve with some folks and in another stunning turn of events, Raleigh actually took some of my ideas and turned them into the Tamland. Then they went and switched the frame and fork materials, spec'ed the bike differently to some degree, and called it the Willard.

Now, when I found out about the aluminum framed, carbon fiber forked Willard, two thoughts immediately jumped into my head- One was that my high school sweetheart's Dad was named Willard. The other was the movie by the same name. If you are familiar with that movie, you know it is a horror flick about killer rats. In my mind, (admittedly, a twisted mass of neurons), the Raleigh Willard is "The Rat Bike". Well, that's my own issue, and not what I was wanting to get into here, so......

The Two!
Al-yoo-min-yum. The material chosen to construct the two models of the Willard from, is an interesting choice here. Sure.....lots of lesser expensive road bikes share this material, but they are not going on the "paint shaker-like" surfaces we ride on out here, in general. That alloy stuff has a reputation, ya know, and it may not be true, but many feel that aluminum is a rough riding frame material. I don't think that it necessarily has to be that way, but if you've ever noticed, many companies are not flouting a "compliant aluminum alloy frame" in their marketing materials. I suppose that's got more to do with that aforementioned "reputation" that aluminum has than anything else. That said, I'd like to put my suspicions to rest and see if this, or some other aluminum frame might actually be a nice riding frame set. 

I know- lots of you out there are thinking this is a stupid thing. No way an aluminum frame rides nicely in the same or similar manner as a steel or carbon frame can, right? Well, I am thinking it is a possibility, and maybe, just maybe, this here  Raleigh number can do it. If not the Willard, why couldn't it be another aluminum frame? I mean, look how much an air frame flexes, fer cryin' out loud. I would think someone could figure out how to make a bicycle frame in aluminum do that. Oh wait.......they already did. Vitus anyone?

Anyway, just some crazy thinking around these parts for today. Nuthin' unusual!

Bonus: Here's a cool video I received from a French manufacturer that is pushing the gravel scene in France

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pivot LES Fat: One Bike To Rule Them All?

The new Pivot Cycles "LES Fat" hard tail Image courtesy of Pivot
Last year I rode a bicycle that really opened up my eyes. It was a Borealis Echo set up not as a fat bike, but as a 29+ bike and it had a Rock Shox Bluto fork with that same company's excellent dropper post.

Their weren't too many bikes I wanted to keep as a test rider for Twenty Nine Inches, but the Echo, so equipped, was one. I had it up at the Volga Recreation Area, a place where there are big hills, challenging climbs, lots of sand, and chunky rocks here and there. In short, it has every tough feature a Mid-Western trail might have.

The Echo slayed the place, and with the 1X11 drive train and 3 inch wide rubber, it was a hoot to ride. It made me want to ride there all day, and then go find harder places to ride, because it was so capable, like a fat bike, but it was light and nimble, like a carbon hard tail. So... Well, here we have the next evolution of such an idea. Perhaps a "one bike solution" for many people.

The Pivot Cycles LES Fat is a fat bike, of course, but there are several details, and one big important one, that set this apart from many in the crowd. First of all, Pivot designed this to be different from most fat bikes because they wanted it to work with 26" X 4", 26" X 5", 27.5" X 3+", and 29+ wheel sizes. To do this, Pivot realized that 26 X 4 and "Mid-Fat" wheels have about the same wheel diameter, but 26" X 5" and 29+, which are very similar in wheel diameter to each other, are bigger wheels than the first two mentioned. Yes- by a significant amount. Regular fat bike sized wheels and "Mid-Fat" based on 27.5" has a slightly smaller than 29" diameter, while the other two measure out at slightly more than 31" in diameter. Big difference, and this causes handling and ergonomic issues.

Image courtesy of Pivot. (Red arrows are my addition!)
To allow for a swap of wheels and to keep the geometry mostly the same in all configurations, Pivot designed a special "lower cup" which can be removed to accommodate longer axle to crown measurements and not "jack up" your geometry. (Pun intended- See the image at the right for a visual)

This means that when you use a Bluto fork, and account for sag, you have removed the lower cup and you can retain the same front end angles, bottom  bracket height, and seat tube angle as you had while running rigid. 29+, 5" width tires, and Bluto forks would all be used without the lower cup. Mid-fat and "normal" sized 3.8"-4.0" fat bike rubber in rigid mode would stay with the lower cup in the head tube. Bottom bracket height can be further controlled by the swinger drop outs which go back and up to accommodate a taller back wheel.

 Those same swinging rear drop outs will allow for single speed set ups, or for tweaking the wheel base. Pivot's ported internal routing is cool, and a "stealth route" for a dropper post is also designed into this frame. Finally, an axle standard I thought might prove to become the new "standard" is seen here- 197mm X 12mm through axle rear and 150mm X 15mm through axle front is on this bike. The front wheel will swap straight into a Bluto fork. Nice.

An intriguing detail on the new LES Fat is the e-13 co-designed with Pivot fat bike crank which is said to work with 5" wide tires but still have a "tread width" or "Q Factor" which is  closer to a rear 170mmOLD hub. Pivot says it works for better ergonomic feeling especially in regard to knees and hips. However; they also claim a good chain line with a 5" tire and an ability to run a double front chain ring set up. That I'd have to see.

So, could something like this be your Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall rig? Could the addition of a Bluto fork extend the range of this bike such that you'd never want a full suspension device? Could it be a fat bike, a "Mid-fat" bike, and a 29+ rig so you'd never want another weirdo hard tail? Maybe. The wider bottom bracket is still going to freak out many folks. (Physically and mentally) So there is that big hurdle. Oh yeah.........and the Pivot LESS Fat is expensive! There is that too. But if you can swing the dough, there isn't a bike out there with cooler details that is this versatile. I bet I'd get on with it just fine.

The Tale Of The Luxy Bar: Revival?

Two rare Luxy Bars from 2011.
Here we go again! more on the old Luxy Bar. To catch up on the story so far, you'd better click in here.

Since that last post more Luxy Bar Lust has occurred, and Brant Richards left On One to start up a company dubbed "Pact Bikes". So....

Tuesday I see a Tweet that the Luxy Bar is coming back and it will need a new name. Anyone going to their Facebook page can suggest a name and if chosen, they will get a new handle bar.

So, I cannot say exactly when this will happen, but Brant Richards has reached out to me and said it is all true. The bar is coming back, in original form, with a new name re-branded under Pact Bikes marque. There will be a U.S. point of distribution for retail sales.

Hang on.......I've been promised the latest information when it becomes available.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It Wasn't Always This Way

L-R: Jeremy Fry, Mike Johnson, Ron Saul, G-Ted @ the DK200 2010
Recently the Dirty Kanza 200 filled up its registration field limit. It took about 33 hours from the opening of the on-line gates until they filled up every available spot. I had no doubt they would get it done. It is a very popular event. I'd say this event, Barry Roubaix in Michigan, and the Almanzo 100 are likely your most popular events on gravel out there. Each has their own appeal.

The DK200 has been crafted into a "big deal" for the riders that attend. Lots of attention from Emporia, lots of attention from the cycling media, the manufacturers, and the promoters. They all have amped up the lead in to the event, and the experience during the event, to the point that riders say they feel like "rock stars". That's a monumental task to pull off, but Jim Cummins, the Mohns, and LeLan Dains have done it and keep growing it bigger. (For more on the Dirty Kanza 200, where it started, where it is, and where it is going, listen to the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast with Jim Cummins HERE.)

I haven't been to a DK200 since 2010. That was about when the "big deal" started with the event. It was the first year that they shut down the main street we finished on in Emporia and the first where we started downtown. Things were getting big by that point, but by comparison to today, those were small potatoes. The scene now is far more festive, with a bigger production, and a lot more riders. In ten years, this thing has done blowed up, and that's putting it mildly.

It wasn't always this way though.

The start of the first DK200. That's me in white. Image courtesy of P. Jacobson
In 2005, a couple of fellas met up and they planned on doing something like this crazy event they had heard about called Trans Iowa. Joel Dyke and Jim Cummins crafted their event after that model, but they tweaked the thing liberally. In fact, after my trip to this event, I made a move to my Trans Iowa cohort, Jeff Kerkove, that we should change things to reflect some of Jim and Joel's good ideas. While they weren't the first to do a gravel event in Kansas, (that distinction belongs to the now defunct "Flint Hills Death Ride"), they were the first to do an ultra-distance gravel event in that state. Jim Cummins wrote in a thread about the first Dirty Kanza on the following, "Our inspiration came not from the Death Ride, but from Guitar Ted and his Trans-Iowa."

So it was that the Dirty Kanza was to be a long, arduous course set into the Flint Hills where Joel and Jim hoped that they would be able to attract a few "nutcases" down from the Trans Iowa and from other 24 hour mtb events to tackle this challenge. The "scene" wasn't much back in those days. Gravel events were something unheard of, and without the then fairly new tool of the internet, it is likely that you would have never heard of Trans Iowa, the Dirty Kanza 200, or much of anything, for that matter! The thing was, these sorts of events were very much "under the radar" back in 2006.

The registration table for the first DK200
They ran the registration and got 45 souls to put their name on the roster, including myself. I hadn't ever ridden in a gravel event before, and I had trained, planned, and obtained goods to help insure my success. I also was able to hook up with a new acquaintance I had made through Trans Iowa and the internet by the name of David Pals. We did the long trip down from Iowa to see just what we were in for. Information on the Flint Hills was pretty sparse back in 2005/06. Knowledge of tire choices, and any other helpful hints, were limited to the scant bits of information we could derive from folks on and what little info Jim and Joel provided. There were no training camps, no "Dirty Kanza- The Premier Gravel Grinder" website, no nothing. It was dive in- sink or swim for me.

David picked me up at my sister's place in Des Moines and we left on a hot, humid day to go into the unknown. We checked out some of the areas we knew the course would go through, and the heat and winds were rather worrisome. I know it was up around 100 degrees most of that day. We checked in at the Travel Lodge, where we had to hunt for the registration area, which amounted to a round table commandeered by a few of the DK200 volunteers. They were really friendly, and showed us some of the swag they had as prizes. Then we signed in, and went to our room to await the early morning alarm clock warning and then hit the parking lot for the 6:00am start. The rider's meeting happened right there. Just before we took off, and that was that. The DK200 was started.

Early on in the inaugural DK200 and I was all alone.
Thank God it was an overcast day with little humidity and lower temperatures! I remember it being a fascinating ride. It was soooo different than anything I had ever experienced, but I was doing it mostly all by myself. By the time we left the first town of Council Grove, I was on my own until the mid-way checkpoint at Cottonwood Falls. There I was to fish my final supplies out of my bag on my own to get to the finish. Volunteers said the next section was very remote and likely the toughest of all. I took the admonition to heart, bent over to grab something out of my bag, and just about passed out. That was it for me.

Winner Dan Hughes giving Doug, one of the DK volunteers, a smooch after winning.
I sometimes still wonder if I could have finished that course anyway, but I had two small kids and a wife back home to think about, and pressing myself into a remote area, with no means of getting myself out, and with no good reason to put myself into a dangerous situation, well...... It was a tough decision, but probably the right one. 

I rode back to town with Doug where we found the 10 X 10 pop up that served as the "finish line" in the middle of the motel parking lot where we all had left that morning. Not long after, Dan Hughes came rolling in, all dusty, and dropped his bike to the ground, a white Steelman cross bike with Bruce Gordon Rock and Road tires on it. There was a smattering of hand claps and a "good job!" from the six or so gathered there. Dan grabbed a PBR out of a nearby cooler, slammed it, and smiled broadly. I'm not sure he felt like much of a "rock star", but he was, (and still is), in our eyes.

The fifteen finishers started to trickle in, and the stories began in earnest. Lost, defeated by flat tires, and burnt by the Sun, (which eventually did come out), many others that had cut their rides short also joined in the festivities around that pop-up tent on the unforgiving blacktop. Laughter and a sense of camaraderie was evident. Pizzas were ordered and delivered by astonished teenage delivery drivers who had never seen anything quite like the finish of the first DK200.

The final finisher was my traveling companion, and future co-director of Trans Iowa, David Pals, who finished at about 12:30am after being in a spectacular thunder and lightning storm, and then getting hit and knocked off his bicycle by a car a mere few blocks from the finish line. An auspicious ending to the event that has grown up so much, it doesn't even resemble the "back yard barbeque" feel it had back in 2006. Yep, it wasn't always the way it is now, with the lights, the big deal, and what not, but how could it stay that way.......

This post is dedicated to the memory of Joel Dyke, DK200 co-founder. Please consider a donation to the fund to help his family at