Friday, May 29, 2015

It's A Bit Moist

Here in Emporia and it has been raining off and on since about 3:00am.  Cyclists are buzzing about and chatting each other up   Most of the talk centers around the "big boom" heard at 3:23am. That clap of thunder got all of our attention!

Now we are headed downtown to the expo and
The day should fly by. More later.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Disaster Strikes!

Well, ya know what they say- "anything that can go wrong will go wrong." I guess that's what might explain what happened here. Yesterday, I was availed the chance to ride to work, since it wasn't raining, and I was keen to run the Fat Fargo through some clayish mud back behind a strip of stores I typically pass by on my way to work. There is some construction going on back there and they have made a mess of things with their vehicles and whatnot. Perfect for some mucking about to see how the drivetrain behaves before I find any mud Saturday at the DK200.

Well, it behaved badly!

I was moving along through a bit of tricky mud, and not the first mud I'd found by any means, and then I heard it: Snap! I stopped as soon as possible, making maybe only a half a pedal stroke, but it was too late. Here's my chance to use another tired old saw! "When handed a lemon, make lemonade!"

I decided to use the opportunity to test my roadside repair kit. I would surely find a hole in my preparations if there was one, because the chain was jammed behind the spokes down along the hub shell and the derailleur was...........destroyed! Well, not really, but the chain was jammed so tightly in the cage it wouldn't pass through it. Okay, now to get to thinkering!

I went through a couple of ideas, but when I found my needle nosed Vice Grip pliers, I knew I could wedge the nose against the biggest cassette cog and use it as a fulcrum to make the jaws of the pliers a pry bar of sorts. It worked! The chain was being extracted a little bit at a time. However, that dratted derailleur was now causing me some frustrations, since it was locked to the chain. I was able to find the quick link, so I undid that, and I loosed the derailleur from the cable. All that gave me enough "wiggle room" to finish extracting the chain. Then I could coast the bike.

Now I was only about three blocks at most from work, so I walked it in from there. Had I been at the DK200, my next step would have been to release the chain from the derailleur cage by undoing the bolts through the jockey wheel. Since I had a spare hangar, I could have then replaced it. Then I would have had to repair the cage, replace the chain, and reinstall everything again. The hole in my kit? No LocTite. Usually when you replace a jockey wheel, ya gotta put some LocTite on those bolts or they work themselves out and bang! Back in the pits again with a janky drive train! So....the lesson learned. Pack a little bit o LocTite!

The bad thing here is that I didn't trust that old Ultra 9 speed derailleur after that, and bought a new one at work. An XT 10 speed one. You know what that means? I either run my current shifter in friction mode or try to graft on my Gevenalle 10 speed shifter. I also have to look at the drive side spokes, and if those are toast, I will just have to bail on the whole Fat Fargo thing and go back to the BMC, which I would be okay with.

What did I end up doing? Stay tuned.........

UPDATE: I ended up sticking the Gevenalle GX 10 speed shifter on by swapping levers, then the 10 speed DynaSys rear derailleur shifted properly over the 9 speed cogset!!  I didn't realize that I had mixed 9 and 10 speed until I was test riding the bike in front of the house at 11:30pm! Oh works, and that is all that matters right now.

On to Emporia.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Gettin' Real

Yesterday the Dirty Kanza 200 released cues and maps for the course this year. Yep......its gettin' real! They mentioned "contingency plans" for flooding if that is a problem come Saturday, so it sounds as though it's on no matter what. (Barring natural disaster, obviously)

One thing I've been doing is that I have been staying away from most of the banter I have been seeing about the event. It isn't doing anything for me but making me think too much about the ride. That's not good for my mental state, so I have been mostly making myself click away from possibly being sucked in. That said, I did note one comment about the cue sheets that made me shake my head.

Someone was complaining that the cues, as issued to be printed on paper, were bad because they could be damaged by water. Electronic cues downloaded into their device was their preference, or so I gathered. opinion is that if you cannot figure out how to keep rain off your cue sheets, you maybe shouldn't be riding Dirty Kanza. Heck, we've been running my dirt bag cues for Trans Iowa since, well forever, and the folks that come to Trans Iowa have it dialed. It's not an impossible task, ya know. But I get it, because folks dumped 110 bucks on this event and they have expectations and demands in return. But still...... Get real man! It isn't that hard. Anyway......

Tony stopped by yesterday and we arranged for our depart time and my pickup. Then the other day, when MG was up, we spoke about our lodging arrangements. Don and I arranged for my support during the event and planned a rendezvous at Emporia for Friday to get briefed. Then Ari and I have been exchanging e-mails all along to keep ourselves sane and on track to ride with each other during the event. Finally, all the DK200 e-mails have been helpful in getting my mind wrapped around the course ahead of the game. It takes an army, eh? For myself, it is good to realize all the connections and that I am not in this alone. I am looking forward to the weekend and crossing that finish line in Emporia Saturday night.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Capping Off The Weekend

The sky was spectacular Monday evening
The long Memorial Day weekend was good on many fronts, but as for cycling, I was taking time off, resting, and getting myself in a state where I can take a crack at the Dirty Kanza 200, this coming Saturday. Well, at least I hope so. More on that later.....

This past Friday a box emblazoned with "Twin Six" showed up at the shop. Andy, my coworker was ready and willing to take it off my hands, sight unseen, but I told him to keep his grubby mitts offa dat box! Inside was a mean, lean, green machine. It was built up with SRAM Rival and had Avid mech disc brakes. The rig is a test bike for the site. So, you'll be able to find all the thoughts I have on that rig there. Well......soon anyway. I haven't written up anything beyond the introduction which is posted here.

I got it out and checked over the rig some during the weekend. It has these new Panaracer Gravel King tires on it. "Gravel King"......a pretentious name for a tire if I ever heard one. It was introduced earlier on with a maximum size of 28mm. That is not a joke either, but it is laughable. Now they have a 32mm, which is what this bike came with. It's an interesting tire, but from a Mid-Westerner's perspective, it is a pretty limited use tire based solely upon the width here. 32mm isn't going to give you a whole lot of volume to play with air pressures, and that can lead to unpleasantries. We'll see how they hold up.........

Fortunately, the Twin Six Standard Rando does have boatloads of tire clearance, so this nit could be rectified should the need arise. Only not with any tire named "Gravel King", which I find pretty hilarious. Mark one down for the marketing department at Panaracer. Of course, they could come out with a wider one, then things might be different.

Barns For Jason: Fresh round bales that smelled amazing.
So, anyway, the tires, being what they are, ride pretty nicely so far. The whole bike does, actually. I got it out at the end of Monday on actual gravel after a shakedown cruise Sunday to tune the fit and drive train. I headed out on the "short loop" which takes a little over an hour or so. I didn't want to get too far out of town for a couple of reasons- One: I wasn't 100% confident in the bike yet, (Would I like the saddle? Are the bars out there too far? etc),  and Two: I wasn't packing lights and the Sun was Westering already, casting long shadows by the time I reached the gravel.

It was windy from the Southeast, so I measured my efforts and concentrated on spinning circles, not wanting to pop a knee or something else stupid right before the Dirty Kanza. The gravel was really good. Despite the rains on Sunday, I didn't see much evidence of any wet roads with the exception of a few spots. It was good that way.

I did see some spectacular skies and smelled some great smells. Fresh cut hay. Animals. Dirt. I also saw some new flowers. Purples and yellows dominated the ditches in places. Turning out of the wind I began to pick up speed and it wasn't long before I was back in town, but that was an excellent cap to a long three day weekend.

Now as for the DK200- this could get interesting. They have had a lot of heavy rain which has caused minor flooding around Emporia, and I would imagine in the surrounding Flint Hills as well. The forecast looks more wet than dry going into the weekend and that will only prolong, or exacerbate the conditions they are currently experiencing. That said, here's a little blurb from the DK200 promoters concerning the situation which they posted on Facebook last night:

As promised, we will release course maps in the morning. If you are pre-registered for DK200, DK100, or DK Lite, you will receive an email from us with links to the maps. If all goes to plan, these will be the routes. If we get enough rain between now and race day to cause a problem, we'll enact one of our many contingency plans, based on the situation at hand.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

Remembering those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. I hope that all of you that see this will take some time today to consider what our men and women in the armed services have done for us in the past and in the present. Our freedoms didn't come free.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: Packing

Sifting through gear and nutrition choices for the coming weekend
It is getting down to it. In four short days I have to have everything packed up and ready to head down to Kansas to give the Dirty Kanza 200 another go. At this point my fitness is what it is. I cannot fix up anything more in that regard. I have my mental state and maintenance with sleep and eating and drinking right up to the event that I can do there. So, with nothing else to work on in regards to fitness, I have turned my attention toward packing up now.

The thing is with me, I have gear over here, over there, and all over yonder Guitar Ted Productions. I have set ups for this bike, that bike, and for a couple hydration packs. Heck, I have stuff that I can't find because it is in some bag or another in some hidden pocket. So, I spent the better part of Saturday evening just dumping out bags and digging through stuff. Sifting and sorting.

Some things were obvious- Lezyne pump, tubes, Remo patch kit. Some things were necessary due to the likely conditions this year- packable rain jacket, wind breaker, lights. Then there were choices to make for a tool kit from the three major ones I have assembled over time. Chain breakers, multi-tools, and special tool just for this event. I also packed in some Hammer Nutritional supplies since they were easy to put in there. Hopefully I don't forget about that stuff while I am out there! Usually I pack stuff in my top tube bag and totally forget all about it until I see it weeks later when I unpack my stuff.
An image published by the DK200 showing a rain soaked road.

I will be packing clothing and more yet today and Monday, but my goal is to be completely ready to leave before Tuesday. Then it will be onward to Emporia, where it has been raining and tearing up the roads out there. They received rain all day on Saturday after this image posted by the Dirty Kanza 200 promotions was posted Friday showing a rain soaked road being rutted up and washed clear of most of the smaller, finer road material.

So, all of that really bolstered my choice in bike along with my friend, MG's. He was up Saturday evening to visit and we chatted a bit about the coming event. We both agreed that since Trans Iowa many of the gravel events have seen their fair share of wet, nasty weather, and that perhaps the Dirty Kanza 200 was going to perpetuate that streak. One thing I know is that with the forecast that is out now, the temperatures don't look to be brutal, as they have been in years I have tried to ride this event. I'm not particularly good in heat. My record isn't too good in events with heat, that's a fact. However; if it sticks to what they are predicting down there, it would play into my wheelhouse. Rain? I'm okay with that as long as it is without violence and lightning.

Whatever the weather is, MG and I, (and my friend Ari), have decided that we're going to ride our bikes all day, have the most fun we can while doing that, and finish the course of the Dirty Kanza 200, no matter what it is.

This will probably be the close to the Chronicles for this Dirty Kanza. From here I will be putting up some random posts, but of course, there will be a full report here after the event is over. Stay tuned.....

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Don't Say The "G" Word

The word "gravel" is so divisive that even Twin Six wouldn't use it to name this bike.
I had lunch last week with a good friend of mine that I get to see far too little. But that's another story, and likely you wouldn't be all that interested in our relationship. The point is, he works for a company that is a purveyor of a "gravel road racing bike". They actually use that term. The thing is, this friend of mine related to me, is that not everyone "gets it", or even understands it.

This friend of mine, he is a wise man, despite his lack of years, and he deals with this lack of understanding in a clever way. He asks what the locals call their back roads or unpaved byways, and then he calls this gravel road racing bike the "_________bike". (Fill in the blank with whatever they tell him.) Then they understand perfectly what the bike is all about. Brilliant!

There are many others though, and this crowd bristles at the term "gravel bike", and they blame marketing for coming up with another "unnecessary bike " and trying to get people to part with their money, which, ya totally evil. Especially if they are foisted into  believing they need this so-called "gravel bike", because, ya isn't a thing and that kind of bike is evil. Or so we are led to believe by the punters and "Negative Nancys" that populate social media and forums these days. Many whom have pretty, niche bikes of their own hanging from pegs in their garages, apartments, and homes. But never mind those specialized purpose bikes........

Here's an idea for those who don't like this whole "gravel bike" deal- Ignore it.  I mean, how hard can that be?

Anyway, the mere fact that these people that react so negatively to that is telling. In the end, I find it rather disingenuous and sad, especially seeing how many of these same folks are not being consistent in their logic. And I need to take my own advice and ignore all of that. Which I do most of the time. Just consider this a Public Service Announcement to you to advise you that the "G" word may cause an unreasonable and unwarranted negative reaction from some people.

The more you know.......

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday News And Views

Podcast #9: The latest Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast is live now. In it Ben and I discuss the scene developing in Montana's prairies, our participation in the Badlands Gravel Battle and the Dirty Kanza 200, plus we cover a bit on some pedals I reviewed and make an announcement concerning something from Twin Six. It is a rambling, information infested hole of doom, so strap on the headphones and give it a listen.

Lube-Off Update
A Note On The Lube-Off:

Once again- Thank you readers for all the feedback and interest in the "Lube-Off". I continue to get suggestions rolling in, and although I may never get to testing them all out, I appreciate all the passion and knowledge being shared.

Secondly, I wanted everyone to know that I have gotten one of the contenders into the mix. Wednesday was rainy, cold, and with me just coming off a mild cold, I thought it best to work on some bikes rather than ride myself into getting sick, possibly, again. That means the the Fat Fargo is now sporting the Rock and Roll Gold lubrication. It was applied as per instructions, so we will also be getting a good idea on how this stuff works soon.

Keep in mind that I already have the DuMonde Tech on the Tamland and I will be riding that bike as part of the testing as well. The other two contenders- Boeshield T-9 and ProLink Gold- will be getting applied to two other rigs here real soon and then we will have all four lubes in play for this test. I figure that I won't have a lot to say about this after that point until a month or so goes by, so sit tight on this and I'll be back with more as Summer gets cranked up.

Notes On The Nano 40 TCS:

Okay, so as many of you may have noted, I moved the Nano 40TCS tires over to my HED Ardennes+ wheels and set them up tubeless utilizing Velocity USA blue tape and WTB valve stems. This set up is still in consideration for the Dirty Kanza 200 and I may be swayed by a potential "thorn" in the way the set up has played out.

After having ridden a nearly 70 mile ride on these, I figured I was good to go until I noticed the front tire kept leaking down. Hmmm...... I don't like any issues at all with a tubeless set up, so I was getting less and less confident in the set up as I tried to diagnose the issue, and yet the tire kept leaking down. In fact, it was getting to the point that the tire wasn't staying up for a day when I finally figured it out. The WTB valve stem has a removable core, of course, and it was screwing out every time I put a pump on it, which accounted for why the tire was losing air at a progressively faster rate. I tightened it down and it seems that it has maintained pressure. So, back in the running then, right?

Not so fast! The commenters yesterday made me think maybe I should consider the Fat Fargo as being the "smart choice. Okay, so that's your Dirty Kanza rig then! But wait! I rode that bike yesterday and discovered the middle ring is shot, and I need a new cassette. Bah! 

All is not lost though. I have a plan, and I'll see about that this weekend as it rains....... 

Okay- ya'all have a great Memorial Day Weekend, and be safe! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: Vacillating

Taking a good, hard look at this......
I know, I know...... Just last week I said I chose the rig for my Dirty Kanza 200 attempt. But what fun is getting ready for an ultra-long gravel ride if you don't question your choices five or six times before you leave, right? You folks that have done these events know exactly what I am talking about here. Anyway.....

So, here's the deal. Kansas has been getting a lot of rain lately. That will probably mean that the water crossings will not only be running, but that the silt and smaller rock will be washed away. I recall back in '09 or '10 when that was the case and every water crossing was followed with seven or eight riders on cross bikes fixing pinch flats alongside the road. I and my mountain bike tires did not even flinch at these obstacles. Of course, I have tubeless Nano40's now, but that isn't as big a tire as I have traditionally brought to Kansas.

I was talking to my good friend MG, and he is running a fat bike, but he has run cross and mtb tires at Dirty Kanza before. He made some great points to me. One which hit home was that comfort is king when you aren't racing it to win, but to get the finish. The bigger tires of an mtb bike can be light, and still allow comfort and they also give you some flat protection.

Plus I have some intel that leads me to believe that this new course is actually a bit rougher than in the past. That plays into the comfort/fat tires bit as well. We do know for certain that we are crossing private land, so that also leads me to believe that the roads, (if they are roads), are going to be rough.

I rode this Fargo at the DK 200 once, but I was sick that year.
Then there is the Fargo itself, which lends me the capability to carry more water bottles, for one thing, and also a top tube bag to put food in. I can get by on that rig without wearing a back pack, which is a big deal. This wouldn't be on my Gen I Fargo, but on my Gen II Fargo which actually has a longer rigid fork that would be more comfortable than the shorter Gen I fork. That Gen II bike has a triple crank and a pretty wide range cassette, so climbing is not a big deal.

So, there is all of that, but I haven't put the BMC out of the picture just yet. Maybe..... I just have to decide based upon my fitness going in. If I am not all that confident in that, I am going for comfort, water bottle carrying capabilities, and better flat resistance. In the end, weight isn't all that different, but the BMC is not as comfortable in terms of ride smoothness. How could it compete with those poofy B+ tires?  Then there is the titanium Regulator post I swapped over from my Ti Mukluk. I will be riding this, hopefully on a long ride, this weekend and making the final call. I bet it will be ultra-smooth. We'll see how it all goes.

Stay tuned for more last minute Dirty Kanza madness. I'm sure there will be more where this came from!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Freedom To Fail

The Trans Iowa Masters Course I designed last year
With the increasing popularity of back country riding, I have noticed that more and more folks have begun poking around asking questions about route finding, or where they can go to access a route. Every time I see a request I shake my head and my heart sinks. It really makes me sad. I feel like a little piece of freedom gets squashed when I see folks looking to "press the easy button."

I'm going way back now, so please bear with me. There was a time when a certain curmudgeon named Mike Curiak was seen to be posting stuff on-line that had to do with "researching your own stuff", except that Mr. Curiak had a better way of putting that. Anyway, I was a bit puzzled as to why he was being so darn standoffish and seemingly protective about his ways and means for bikepacking. I thought that since it was a small community, (then), and that we were all "helping each other", that it was in everyone's best interest to share ideas, faults, successes, and to have each other's support in all of this endeavor. However; maybe now I am just coming to understand a wee bit about where Mr. Curiak was coming from. Not that I "get it" entirely, mind you.....

Poking around for a way to go.....
You see, there is a certain freedom you give up when someone else does all the "work" for you. You lose the freedom to fail 

That probably sounds like a good thing to lose to most everyone, but I don't think that is how it really is. In fact, I think it is a freedom that makes us stronger if we embrace it, and weaker when we let someone else do "the heavy lifting".  Why? Because when you invest, put forth the effort, and it doesn't quite come out the way you thought, or wanted, you get a valuable lesson. You, (hopefully), learn, and gain experience, grow, and learn something about yourself. When you get that end result just handed to you, without the effort and investment, you miss out on the learning, experience, and there is no depth to what you have been given.

When I was younger, there were kids that had parents that bought them cars. This was a rarity back in those days because cars were something not everyone had. (I know- hard to believe that, ain't it? ) Anyway, those kids, almost to a person, were not appreciative of the gift. They beat those cars, wrecked them, and they didn't care. The rest of us, who had to scrape up a few hundred just to buy a barely running jalopy, were standing in amazement as we spit polished our pithy paint jobs and tried our best to make sure our vehicles were in the best shape possible. We worked hard for what we had, so maybe we appreciated what we got a bit more? Maybe. Perhaps there was something I was missing there.......

Obviously in Life we should seek balance. There is something to having some wise counsel, and to apprentice under a master, that is to be celebrated, for sure. However; I see a culture that is more and more about pushing a button, and getting things laid out for them. Instant results, little to no effort in researching, and not a lot of appreciation for those that did the pioneering. Maybe the "Age Of Information" should be blamed. Perhaps we've lost something in the trade off to have "social networks", instant access to weather forecasts, and  GPS maps.

Paper maps- They are still a thing.
Take the Tour Divide for instance. It's not what it used to be, that's for sure. Yes, it is an incredible accomplishment. However; with all the knowledge that previous folks have built up, disseminated, and with all the "touch points" of social media, well, it is hard to see how it could be the same as it was when John Stamstad did it. Oh......yeah, you should check him out if you haven't heard of him. Point is, the folks riding it this year are riding on the backs of many that went before them that paid their dues. Is that wrong, right, or does it even matter? I think it does matter somewhat, but it is hard to find that balance of just how much it does or doesn't matter. Maybe no one cares.....

Anyway....... What's all this have to do with route finding and what I do? Well, I am not anyone that I would consider in the same breath as Stamstad or Curiak, not even in terms of gravel road stuff. However; I still feel like people look at what I do as something extraordinary. It really isn't all that big of a deal, really. I mean, if you just spend some time with some good maps, even you could come up with a good route, I am pretty sure. But, ya know, that requires time, patience, and you need to go out see things out in the field to make sure they exist. That said, it doesn't take any strange talent or skill to do this. You just decide to do it..... Maybe you fail, or things don't turn out quite the way you wanted.'s okay. Chalk it up as an experience, learn from it, and apply what you got to the next try.

Someone wanted to know if I was going to run the Trans Iowa Masters Program again. I said that the route was a one time deal, that I wasn't planning on putting that out there again. Nope. This year is about more riding, less route planning for others. The individual in question replied that I should keep them appraised of any future routes I might "put out there". That's what makes me shake my head, and makes my heart sink. Why shouldn't this person, or anyone else, make their own challenge, devise their own route, and "put it out there".

You should. Don't be afraid to fail........

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Guitar Ted "Lube Off" Round Two- Part 3

The field for Round One has been set!
Okay, this "lube-off" is set to begin. I want to take this space to first say "thank you" to all the readers that chimed in on the comments section with all of your great suggestions. I received some excellent pointers on some new lubes I hadn't heard about, and also some great "alt" lube ideas. I think I will get around to checking some of those out in the future, but for now, I wanted to stick to some brands with definite differences, brand recognition, and lubes that were available nationwide at most quality bicycle shops.

The third contender I added is ProLink Chain Lube. I have used this product in the past and thought it worked reasonably well. The product is petroleum based and therefore makes for a good third contender since the other two are wax based in nature.

Now all there is to it is to ride.......a lot!  Along the way I will give my impressions and pass along any notable things that I observe while using each of these. Stay tuned for further updates. By the way, for future reference I am tagging all of these related posts with "Lube-Off", so if you enter that term in the Blogger search box on the header here it will filter out all those related posts to help you keep up on the goings on with this test.

Thanks again!

Guitar Ted "Lube Off" Round Two- Part 2


Yesterday I introduced "Round Two" of the "lube-off" and I asked for recommendations for contenders to the past champion, DuMonde Tech. I received a few good suggestions and from those I am going to choose a couple of contenders, tell you why I chose them, and then I am going to ask a final question. So, first the contenders......

Rock & Roll Gold: Gotta love the marketing machines out there. This stuff is dubbed the "King of Lubes" and in their marketing propaganda, it claims that this will clean and lubricate you chain all at once. The application process sounds a bit "messy" to me, but hey! I'll give it a go and see if what they say is true, or not. This came highly recommended to me by a few mechanic friends of mine, so I have a bit of respect for the lube based upon that alone. Still, the claims are pretty outlandish, and I will be watching this one closely.

I have easy access to this stuff as well, since the shop where I work at sells this product. So, I will get a bit of product testing info to pass on to my customers there as well. That also played into this choice.

Boeshield T-9:

Here's another suggestion and a lubricant I have had recommended to me over the years by several folks. I have never given it a true go on a drive train; however , so this will be a good one for me to try now. Plus, it is also one that is sold at the shop where I work, so I have easy access to this product as well.

It would appear that this lube bases its goodness on a waxy substance that a carrier leaves behind. Again- another lubricant that claims that you do not have to clean your chain before using it. I find claims like these to be kind of outlandish, but again- I'll give this a go to see if there is anything to that.

So, here are two contenders, but I wanted three. I had a couple of oddball requests in the comment section to try out. One was parafin wax- the old roadie standby. I am not going to do that one, since it is like gluing tubulars, only even more arcane. Not that parafin wax wouldn't work, but it isn't practical, and reapplication entails the process be repeated, which isn't all that convenient roadside. By the way, all the other contenders here can be reapplied roadside including the DuMonde Tech.

I found that some of you are not very patient when it comes to lubrication, so the two contenders above will likely appeal to the "low maintenance" crowd. However, I wanted to know if something like White Lightning, Squirt Lube, or maybe a home brew lube might be a thing to throw into the mix here. I also would be open to any new suggestion, but lets get one more lube into the mix here and then we will get this test underway.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Guitar Ted "Lube Off" Round Two- Part 1

Starting off with the "champion".
About eight years ago I ran a "Lube Off" between three contenders and DuMonde Tech came out on top. Well, now there has been some renewed interest at the shop as to what, if anything, is "best" in cycling terms, for chain lube.

It has been my experience that the subject of chain lube is maybe only rivaled by the subject of tires and tire pressure when it comes to "religious fervor" amongst devotees of certain brands and ideas. Chain lubes are, for the most part, also possibly the most over-hyped product for cycling out there. Many making outlandish claims for "cleanliness" or longevity between applications. There have been "scientific", laboratory based experiments to discover which lubes promote the freest running chains, longest lasting lube for a chain, and more.

This "lube-off" won't be "scientific" enough for those that adhere to such standards, and it won't at all be general enough for most of you to gain anything from. However; along the way I will impart some of my observations on many lubes and types of lubes that might help point you in the direction of success for you. Maybe it will all be a waste of your time, but then again, who else is doing this? At least I hope it will be entertaining!

Following label instructions is paramount to the successful use of any lube you choose.
My test will be on gravel. It won't cover mountain biking. It won't be traditional road cycling. it will be on dusty, maybe sometimes wet and gritty, dirt and gravel roads. I figure that gravel travel is probably one of the most severe uses of an external drive train around. Maybe only wet, muddy U.K. type conditions are more damaging. Perhaps Utah grit is more abrasive, but gravel in the Mid-West has to be right up there in terms of its damaging capabilities. At least In think so.

The test will be starting out right away with DuMonde Tech's "Original Formula" which requires a clean chain prior to application. I started out with a brand new Ultegra 11 speed chain and washed it off until all the "shipping lube" was gone, dried it out, and applied DuMonde Tech "sparingly", (one drop on each link's rollers, smeared on the outer plates), wiped down, and then I let it sit in a rag for 24 hours to "bond" to the chain. The chain actually felt dry-ish when I installed it. Oh- and I cleaned the crank rings and installed a brand new 11 speed cassette as well.

So, stay tuned for updates throughout the Summer. And if you have a lube that you are curious about, please submit a suggestion in the comments. I will add three new contenders based upon the comments, and if there are not enough comments to get three new lubricant ideas from, I'll be forced to arbitrarily come up with some of my own. So- you've been warned! 

Let the "Lube-Off" begin!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Matter Of Millimeters

A new set up - Not far from the old, but it matters a lot!
Many times I've heard it said that a few millimeters can make a huge difference when it comes to bicycle fit. You wouldn't think that a few millimeters of seat height, for instance, could be felt. Maybe the thought of a stem only 5mm shorter seems miniscule and that it would not be a noticeable thing. However; time and time again, I have been made aware that it really does make a difference. Not just a little bit either.

Over the years, I have become particularly sensitive to seat height, for instance, and a slight slip of a couple of millimeters of the seat post downward can be felt. I also have been working a lot with saddle width- not to mention contour and overall shape- which has been a revelation and has been something that has allowed me to be far more comfortable on the bike than ever before. Well, my latest work in progress, the Raleigh Tamland, has just been tweaked again and I think this is another major step forward in the area of fit for me on that bike.

I know many of you readers have seen this bike now for over a year here and you may be asking yourself, "What the heck?! Why does it take him so long to dial in a bike. He's had this for more than a year now." I wouldn't blame anyone out there that thinks this way. However; I am a big fan of doing this long term. Not only that, but I firmly believe in changing only one thing at a time, trying it out, then if that works, move on to the next thing, and so on. I changed the handle bar first, then I swapped out the saddle, then the crank gearing got tweaked, and I left it that way for quite a while. Lately, I've been wondering if a saddle issue was necessitating a new saddle choice. I swapped to a fizik Aliante which was an improvement from the previous saddle, but I was still not sitting in the right place. I tracked it down, by way of comparing to another bike I have, to stem length. I carved out 10mm of length and added a bit of rise. Wow! What a difference.

So, if you aren't quite "there" with your fit, but you love your bike, maybe a bike fitting is in order. However; I always like the careful experimentation method I employ. If it is a bicycle you will have around a while, and you have the patience, I think it is worth the time and money investment to try a different component and see how it affects your riding. In the case of the Tamland, I think I am really close to being "there" with the fit.

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Remembrance

The wreckage of an old car near an old school after the tornado of '68
A Special Post. 

 47 years ago I was just a lad of seven and in the first grade of school attending McKinley Elementary School in Charles City, Iowa, where I grew up. It was on May 15th, 1968 that I attended that school for the last time. Not because I graduated, or because it was the end of the year, but because the school, and the entire city, was struck by a powerful F5 tornado that day.

As you might imagine, there were deaths. 13 people lost their lives that day in that tornado. It lasted a matter of only a few minutes, but in the blink of an eye, my entire world, and that of the rest of the nearly 10,000 residents of the city, were forever changed. It's something that burns into your memory so deeply, that to this day I can vividly recall details of May 15th, 1968 in my mind.

Certainly, we weren't the only people to be affected by tornadoes, or tragedies, but for me, every May 15th, I pause and remember. Some years it hits me harder than others. I guess I felt compelled to share for some reason. It also reminds me of the resiliency of the human spirit. Towns like Charles City rebuild, survive, and even thrive.

So, a special post today to mark the 47th anniversary of that horrific day, and the beginning of a remarkable display of the human spirit.

Friday News And Views

New parts for the Tamland
As mentioned in yesterday's post, I got a few new bits for the Tamland. The deal here is that I ran the stock 11-32 cassette until now as the chain has just started to become close to being out of spec. I figured once I got to that point I would implement my plan to lower the gearing on this rig even more. The original crank was modified to a 46/36 combo from the original 50/36 combo. Key thing there was that I did not shorten the chain when I did that. This will become important later....

The cassette has the lowest cog Shimano offers on a 11 speed road cassette. That 32 wasn't even close to being low enough though. I then found out that SRAM makes a WiFli 11-36T 11 speed cassette. The Tamland Two comes with the long cage Ultegra derailleur, so heck....why not get that WiFli cassette? 

I slapped that new cassette on that Tamland wheel and using the old chain to check the set up with in the stand, I shifted very gingerly up the cassette to that big ol' 36 tooth cog while in the big ring. Whadda ya know? It was okay and the chain was the perfect length! So, that new chain will be made the same length and I may have to tweak the B tension screw on the derailluer just a tiny bit, but this will work perfectly. I then will have a lowest gear that will be a 1 to 1 ratio. That should be plenty low on a gravel road going rig.

Still not too small......
The Boy's Bike:

The son's bike is still going strong, but he's also still growing. I figured that this Summer would be the time when he'd go beyond the range for fit on this bike. So, when we went on a grocery errand the other day, I was watching him very closely to see if he was getting to the tipping point. As of now, he's still well within the limits. But I'm sure it won't last long!

So, I am plotting a new rig to accommodate for his future growth spurt, which should happen anytime now. My feeling is that we will go to a medium frame and skip over size small. Maybe.....  I will definitely be after a 170mm rear spaced frame so I can transfer everything over and make the transition as seamless as possible. There is one thing I need to change up, and that is the front hub, which I will swap to a front brake standard instead. That'll work with the new replacement fork that is coming. Oh yeah.......

The Salsa replacement fork isn't in yet, and I haven't heard diddly about the whereabouts of that, but I'm sure it's on the way. When it does come in, I'll have to get that front hub switched out, but no hurry.

Plans are somewhat hazy.......
The Weekend Plans:

Well, with the sketchy weather that has been forecast, I am not going to be able to get in the long ride I wanted, but I think I may get out to do something and that day looks to be Saturday. I would usually schedule a 3GR for Saturday, but as the DK200 is coming, I need to get in a specific sort of ride and I'll likely be doing that on my own. So, no 3GR this weekend for me.

Sunday there are supposed to be big thunderstorms in Iowa, but it also is the opening race at Iowa Speedway and I've got season tickets for myself and my son as a gift from my Mom, so I'm going to be checking that out, and hopefully seeing some action there. I'll maybe have a good image or two from the track to share, but we'll see.

So, have a great weekend, ya'all, and get outside for an adventure!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: Hardware

The "Orange Crush" gets the call
With about two weeks to go till "DK Time" I figured it was high time I made a definitive call on the rig I will use for the event. Actually, I sort of already did make the call about a week ago now. Yep! It's gonna be the ol' "Orange Crush" rig from Black Mountain Cycles. Here's why I went this way.....

First off, I should say that I almost went with the Tamland. It was neck and neck there, but a couple of key road blocks came up with regard to the Tamland that are going to keep it home, for the time being anyway. I already have begun to address some of my nits with that bike, so it shouldn't be long before I can easily reach for that rig for any event. However; I just ran out of time and resources to get it all done before the DK 200.

The problems with that bike are the gearing, which is too high for an event the distance and with the difficulty level of the Dirty Kanza, well.....for me anyway. The bike I need has to have some easy, bail-out gearing for whatever I may run up against out there, and there will be hills and wind. Probably all at the same time. The Tamland's 11 speed group meant that I had no wheels to swap over to it that were tubeless ready either. Tubeless is a must for me if I am running sub-two inch rubber. So, I either had to make a wholesale change to 10 speed on the Tamland or get new wheels. Too expensive either way for me. So, I have gotten a WiFli 11 speed 11-36T cassette for the gearing issue, but the non-tubeless issue will have to wait a while yet.

The HED Ardennes+ wheels and Nano40 TCS tires matched up perfectly
So, the BMC does have tubeless ready wheels- the HED Ardennes+- which are really nice, reasonably light wheels with a decent, wide rim profile. I took my WTB Nano40 TCS tires and set them up tubeless on these wheels and it was so easy, it really elevated my confidence in this set up. I aired up both tires with a tired, ancient Blackburn floor pump, so you know the set up is pretty tight and solid. I even lost 20 grams per wheel in weight despite the TCS version of the Nano40 being heavier than the folding version I had previously on the bike. In another plus, the TCS sidewalls are thicker, so more resistance to cutting is there, which is good to know.

Then the gearing is lower on this bike as well. At least it was until I got my new cassette for the Raleigh! Anyway, it is 9 speed and a lot less finicky. Good to have in a situation where you will be in no-man's land for a day. But there is one trump card the BMC has over the Tamland right now, and that is time.

I've had the BMC longer, and I've tweaked out the bike over a longer period of time. Replace and refine, replace and refine, until I have gotten this bike to a point where I wouldn't change much if anything. It is like an old friend to me, despite its quirks and short comings. Plus, Kansas doesn't have the screaming, steep, loose descents over and over again like Iowa has in places, and that's sort of scary on the BMC. In fact, if Kansas were like that, I wouldn't be taking either of these bikes and I would reach for my Fargo Gen 1. In fact, that wouldn't be a bad idea anyway. 

I've been using these iSSi Triple model pedals which have been nice.
 But the Orange Crush is lighter, more forgiving in ride quality, and very versatile in its own way. The front rack with the El Cofrecito bag is really great and with the added capacity of the Tangle Bag, I have all the room I need for carrying anything I need. So, while the Fargo would be great, I think the BMC will tackle the terrain in Kansas in a good way without being a handful. We'll see.....

If the roads weren't so rough there, and I had the Tamland tweaked out, it would have been the choice because of that bike's geometry, which is more stable. Even without the tubeless wheels. The Tamland will get there, but for a 200 mile event in heat and wind, I wanted to choose something so familiar that I wouldn't be worrying about how something might work or not with it. With a recent saddle change, new, untested gearing, and with the non-tubeless nature of the wheels, it all was just too much and trumped the great geometry of that bike.

The six hour ride last weekend really was the shake down cruise for my choice. I was pleased with the results, especially since I rode about three of those hours into a headwind and later I got to climb some decent sized hills to test out the gearing. So, I feel good about it now and that is all out of the way. Now it will just be getting in whatever rides I can during the next week or so, then a short rest. Right now it looks like all the pieces will come together so that I can cross that finish line in Emporia on the 30th.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Peek At The Future?

Posted by Mike Curiak, the Lenz Behemoth with Plus sized wheels.
Probably six or seven years ago or so, I was contacted by Mike Curiak to meet him just off site in the parking lot at Interbike's Outdoor Demo. He wanted to have me check out "the future" of long travel, 29 inch mountain bikes. Now mind you, at that time there were no long travel 29'ers and nearly everyone said it couldn't be done.

You couldn't get the geometry right, there were no forks, there was no tire suitable, and on and on, yet here was Mike, showing me a six inch travel, full suspension mountain bike with beefy tires, slack geometry, and a "real fork". The bike rode and handled better than any 29"er available at the time, and the prototype WTB tires were flat out monsters. The bike was waaaay beyond my capabilities then and now. Oh.......and it was the future. Easily five or six years ahead of its time, and in terms of mountain bike technology, that may as well be an eternity. The Lenz "Lunchbox", as it ended up becoming, was a ground breaker. 

Tires were so secret, I couldn't take a close up! From I-Bike '08
Now Mike has posted this beast, a Behemoth, with plus sized rubber. looks like 29+ to me, but whatever- this is the future of dual suspension mountain biking. In many ways, it is simply an evolution of that bike I rode back in '08. That bike laid the foundation for what seemed to be impossible, but Mike and Devin Lenz keep pushing the envelope, and quietly, together, they are showing up bigger companies at their own game.

All that aside, the Lenz shown here has short chain stays for tires this big at a claimed 434mm/17.08" and with the 1X set up, the plus sized rubber has room to spare. I've no doubt the bike is dialed and would make mincemeat of any trail anywhere near where I live. In fact, you'd have to take lines that weren't lines here to make this bike worth owning in the Mid-West. That isn't the point though. The point is that folks that don't think it would work, well........they are wrong. It would work, of that I have no doubt. That ride in '08 convinced me that Mike and Devin were dead on to the way big wheels can work in a full suspension setting.

I think B+ will become this. I am pretty sure 29+ will find an application here as well. The Boost axle spacing will become standard fare, and as far as "fat bike" dual suspension, ala the Bucksaw- I think those will be super rare. Those 4" tires and the wheels they go on are just too heavy. Not that the plus-sized/mid-fat FS stuff will be a whole lot lighter, but it will be lighter.

I'll tell ya what, this kind of bike looks like a ton of fun to me. If I were to able to take any bike I could get my hands on to Texas where I go occasionally, I would want that Behemoth pictured above. The Franklin Mountain State Park would suit it perfectly, and I would be having a ton of fun with that sort of rig. Maybe someday I'll make that dream come true.........

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

So, Are 26 Inch Wheels Going The Way Of 27 x 1 1/4"?

Are all old 26" mtbs destined to become townies?
Years ago, Niner Bikes Chris Sugai made what seemed like an outlandish statement in a video he appeared in from Interbike. He claimed that in a certain number of years, (five, I think), that the 26" wheel for mountain bikes would be dead. People thought he'd lost his marbles. However; although it may have taken a while longer than he thought, it appears that he may be right. (By the way, there is also a good rant from Chris on 27.5"ers out there as well.)

Anyway, I always figured that 26" wheels would be the domain of down hill oriented riding. That all changed when the "enduro" thing came around and every five inch to six inch travel platform that was formerly 26" wheels suddenly became "new" with the 27.5" wheel and the "enduro tag". It was "new" and you had to get one of these. What got missed in all of this was that the 26" wheeled bikes were almost identical to the 27.5" bikes besides the wheels, which were marginally different in performance. Marketing? Forced obsolescence? Whatever it was, it pushed 26 inch wheels off the radar and onto the back burner of mountain biker's consciousness.

I predicted a few years ago that when companies quit introducing new products like wheels and forks in 26" versions, that the 26" platform was going to die. Well, it is happening now. Forks are being introduced and there is no mention of a 26" version. Wheels are being produced with no mention of a 26" option. Only tire companies are quietly keeping pace with new 26" options to match their newest 27.5" and 29" rubber options. It won't be long before even this begins to stop happening for 26" wheels. Even down hill bikes are beginning to be more and more the realm of the 27.5" wheel. I would never have had thought that.

I wonder if in five more years or so that the tire rack at the local bike shop will have lots of tire choices and a couple hooks off to the side with the 27 X 1 1/4" tires, old 26 X 1 3/8ths tires, and the "old" mountain bike standard of 26" tires. It sure seems that things are headed in that direction now.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Decade Of Nonsense: Moving Forward

WooHoo...... Okay, now on with the freak show!
Today, May 11th, is the anniversary date of this blog starting up. I've done a small series of blog entries back in February and March detailing the past ten years. Now that the story has been told of the past, it is time to look forward to the future here.

Besides Trans Iowa, the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, an odd Geezer Ride or two, and, I have no other outside obligations besides my work at the shop. No more testing and writing reviews for two other sites, and no extra responsibilities of editing a bunch of other folks reports, posting them, and taking care of a slew of others images. This has already manifested itself in plenty of free time I didn't used to have. In fact, I'm still adjusting to that fact now.

Hmmm........I suppose that all seems like a lot to ride herd on to may of you out there, but of all of these things I do, I do not see myself forsaking this blog anytime soon. That may be good or bad, depending upon your viewpoint. I only know that I like writing on a daily basis and apparently several folks like reading it. Maybe blogging will continue to decline in popularity, (that due mostly to Facebook, I think), or whatever comes next will make blogging the equivalent of doing needlepoint or crochet. Whatever..... I am still carrying on. Just like the tag line for the blog here says.....

"A bicycle and guitar oriented elixir that some find intoxicating. Others...well, let's just say they are sick of it!"

The future will undoubtedly be a surprise and will take twists and turns along the way coupled with a big dose of the "same ol' same ol'". Other than that, I can't really say what will happen for sure. It'll probably be what I said in my very first post.....

"Welcome to the Freakshow that is Guitar Ted Productions! It is here that I will be at liberty to espouse my verbiage in an unbridled, yet entertaining fashion."

So then.......on with the Freakshow!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: RBRH

The Orange Crush in DK200 mode
Well, it was supposed to be a 3GR ride, so I went down to the usual start place and waited to see if anyone would show up. They didn't, so at 8:30am I took off under gray skies and into a steady Northeast win of about 12mph with an occasional gust. I had the good ol' Black Mountain cycles rig set up in Dity Kanza 200 mode.

It's going to come down to either this rig or my Raleigh Tamland for the event. I have a wider range 11 speed cassette coming for the Tamland and if it works, I'll continue to give it a chance, but as it stands right now I just do not have the confidence in myself and those high gears that the 11 speed Ultegra has. So, we'll see how it stacks up later this week. But anyway.....

I headed off North and just kept going toward Denver, chugging along against the wind and the mostly uphill course. Then where I was supposed to turn Left onto the Westward leg of the 3GR course, I hung a right instead. I didn't really have a plan, at least not a specific one, but I wanted more miles. I thought about doing a century, but after only having done 40-ish milers since I've gotten well, I decided a metric century would be cool. So, I needed to go beyond the 3GR course, and why not turn right instead of left!

One thing about Bremer County- it's flat!
This took me into the heart of Bremer County and flat land. Really flat land! I went quite a few miles again before I hit anything I could coast down. In fact, only stream crossings broke up the flat land feel. Then I decided to swing into a little town called Readlyn for a bite to eat. My thought being that I wanted to gauge my on bike nutrition compatibility with convenience store grub. This was turning into an experimental ride for Dirty Kanza. I had gels and Gu Chomps along for the ride, but at the Readlyn convenience store, I bought an energy drink for later on, in case I got fatigued, and a salty bag of chips, which I also saved for later. The only thing I did consume there was a breakfast sandwich, which shut down the hunger pangs really well. Once refueled, I was off Northward again.

Headed North crossing Highway 3. It was still gloomy and chilly out. 
Dandelions lined the roads for many miles.
I had now decided to do a ride past Rob's house. I heard someone say a while back that they were going to do a long ride and "ride by Rob's house", ("RBRH" is the title for today), so I figured I was in that neck of the woods, so why not. Rob used to help me eons ago with some Twenty Nine Inches stuff, so I was familiar with where he lived, having been there a few times in the past. I knew it would tack on a significant amount of miles, but I had no clear idea how many. The only thing I did know was that I would turn left immediately after passing Rob's house, so it would mark the furthest point from home.

The skies started to lift somewhat and the Sun was finally raising the temperatures so that I was planning to ditch my wind breaker after my Westward stretch. I had about six miles to go past Rob's house before I would be able to do that, at least by my plan. In fact, I was sticking to a plan of refueling and drinking all along the ride. That isn't my usual way. Typically, I don't eat anything at all, I just drink fluids. I could tell that the nutritional intake was making a difference though. I didn't feel tired, and actually, I felt rather good.

Barns For Jason
 I had to stop a couple of times to consult the maps, but I managed to get back to the 3GR route at the point where it usually comes the furthest North. I rode down to the next corner, where the 3GR turns South on Hilton, and ate my chips and started in on the energy drink. I was feeling really good. I decided to not turn left and do the rest of the 3GR as we've been doing it, but went Right and picked up the 3GR's original course going backward, following it all the way back into Cedar Falls, for "bonus miles", and it was a good change of pace. By now the Sun had actually broken through for a bit.

The last rest stop looking down Hilton Avenue. 
A bit of "hero gravel" just North of Cedar Falls.
I ended up getting into Cedar Falls and then traversing the city along Grand Boulevard to Waterloo. I was going to do the short, steep climb out of the bike path to go on to Rainbow Drive when as I came down to the street, I was just pushing too hard and I went down. No big deal, I just biffed it, but I was reminded that I was fatigued and that I needed to watch my step. I ended up getting home after being gone for almost six hours and having ridden 68 miles. Not very fast, but a great ride and I felt really good afterward. Not wiped out or totally dead. I credit that to doing nutrition on the bike and being in better health.

So far so good on getting some longer miles in the books.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Dusty Bikes

Part of the gravel road experience is the dust. It is pervasive here in Iowa, at any rate, and you had better learn to embrace that fact if you are to be out on the crushed rock roads most any time of the year. Even in winter the roads can be dusty, but obviously, Summer is the worst/best time for dust during the year.

Maybe it is my mountain biker bent, or perhaps it is my boyish love of mud, water puddles, and dirt, but a dusty bike is a badge of honor for me. The dustier the better. The way the dust gathers on frame tubing can be a fascinating array of patterns, shadings, and influences the coloration of whatever bike you've ridden to a great degree. It's almost like Dario Pegoretti painted your bike with a gravel dust filled air brush. Well.......that's how I see things. 

Dust varies from time to time and year to year. A few years back we had a really dusty year. I remember going to the Moonshine Metric event late that Summer and a car went by us. The dust went up from the car and hung in the windless evening air so that we couldn't see anything for several minutes. A dusty fog, as it were, that made riding dangerous as all get out, but was kind of fun in a twisted sort of way.

Then there are the after effects of dust, which are obvious in a few ways, such as the cleaning up, the drive train wear, and the unreachable places on your bike where that dust lives forever. That and the unseen dust effects, like spitting up limestone tasting nuggets from your lungs for a few days afterward. I's gross but true. 

I still like dusty roads though. See ya on one someday maybe...........

Friday, May 08, 2015

Friday News And Views

Riding Gravel Radio Ranch: Episode Eight of the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch features Greg Gleason, the "winner" of T.I.v11 by virtue of his accomplishment of getting by Checkpoint #1- the only rider of 93 total to get through. Greg got 123 miles up the road before pulling the plug. We were
MG (L) and Greg tipping one back at the end of T.I.v11
able to talk to him on the podcast about that ride, what it took for him to keep going, and more in an over 90 minute episode that you can check out right HERE.  As long as we're talking about Greg, I wanted to touch on something that maybe some of you were thinking about when you heard Greg "won" the event. As many of you know, Greg won T.I.v10 last year. In terms of Trans Iowa history, that seems to set his accomplishments apart from the others that have been declared winners of past Trans Iowas. Ira Ryan, previously the only other rider to have outright won two Trans Iowa events, would now seem to have been surpassed by Greg's "two-fer". However; the practice that some like to employ which is to compare Trans Iowas directly is at fault here. As I've said time and time again- "You cannot compare Trans Iowas." Well, you can, but you really shouldn't. It just doesn't work very well when you look at it. For instance......

Ira's Trans Iowas were vastly different than Greg's and both were "full runs", not truncated by missing time cut-offs or by virtue of bad roads. If anyone hasn't figured it out yet, if no one makes the cut-offs, the event is over with no finishers. In the case of a Trans Iowa v4 or v6, where the organizers pulled riders off the course, or set up a finish line shorter than the planned distance, and the riders were holding a pace to get them to the checkpoint/finish on time, the event is seen differently. In the case of v6, John Gorilla and Joe Meiser were together in the lead when the event was called and we set up the finish in North English, Iowa. We couldn't declare an outright winner in that event because we weren't there when we told them it was over. We were there for everyone elses finishes that year. It's quite possible that both Gorilla or Meiser could have had two out right T.I. wins, albeit Johns would have been both shortened versions had he been declared the winner of v6.

Now as far as Greg, or for that matter, Lindsay Gauld's (Trans Iowa v2) performances go, we have said they are "winners" in that these men made it the furthest of anyone else under extraordinary circumstances, but in both instances, they missed time cut-offs and no one finished either event.

Just a few technicalities to clear up there........

My 2003 Karate Monkey in 2005
Dead In The Water:

Hey, anyone out there remember my 2003 Karate Monkey? Yeah, well it still has a stuck cartridge bottom bracket in it and months, literally months, of soaking it in penetrating oils and solvents didn't help a bit. So, I am going to have a little advice giving contest to see if anyone reading here can come up with a solution to my problem. Now here are the details....

The bottom bracket is a Shimano UN-51 square taper unit that was installed originally in the bike when I built it. (A 118mm spindle, for you detail freaks out there.) Anyway, this bike went through parts of four Winters and maybe more, which have frozen the bottom bracket so I cannot remove it, and it needs to be removed if I want to ever use this bike again. (And I do!)

I've used a typical Shimano bottom bracket tool held on with a bolt and used a large, 12" adjustable jaw wrench with a big ol' hammer to bang on the handle with several times to no avail. I then get tired, park the whole enchilada off to the side, and get on with other projects. That was when I was doing a metric ton of Twenty Nine Inches work, but that gig is over, and I have more free time to get to the shop now and this project is moving to the front burner.

If someone out there gets me the "magic" technique and it works, I will arrange for something cool to reward you with. (Don't get your hopes up for anything too valuable!) But I will show my appreciation for any good ideas I get here that work.

3GR: Last week I started the 3GR back up again, and there will be another one this Saturday at 8:30am at Gates Pool parking lot in Waterloo, Iowa. We will ride North to just East of Denver, a bit further North, then Westward to just North of the BSA Camp, then South past the Camp, then East and Southward till we get back to Waterloo again. Same route we've done a bunch of times before.

Anyone is welcomed, but make sure you have tools to fix a flat and can ride 40-ish miles at a moderate pace. We did the route last week in a little over 2.5 hours. I may tack on more afterward to get something going for the Dirty Kanza 200 training, but that depends on my family at home. I'm in for the 3GR at any rate.

And that's a wrap on this week. Have a great weekend and keep the rubber side dirty!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: Time To Kick It Up A Notch

The road to the Dirty Kanza 200 is getting shorter.....
I mentioned earlier this week that I had gotten in a couple of good rides on the 3GR course since Trans Iowa v11. Those rides have shown me that since the Texas trip in March where I was so sick I was at basically zero for fitness, that I have rebounded quite nicely. At least I feel I am back to a base level for fitness that I expect for typical riding. To me, that is a minor miracle, considering Trans Iowa was stuck in the middle of all of that.

So far, so good, but that won't be "good enough" to get the job done in Kansas at the end of this month. It will take another level up to get me across that finish line in downtown Emporia. I don't take this lightly either. This will be another "minor miracle" in the making. I believe it can be done, and I have some support to help me in this matter. Speaking of that.....

Gone are the days of just showing up in Emporia and checking out for a days ride with no one else there to bail you out and being out there alone for hours on end. The DK 200 has grown into a monster and there are good things and not so good things about all of that. In my case, I am choosing to focus on the positives and how those positives will make this trip to the Flint Hills a successful one.

One thing is that I have more pre-ride information and support from friends than ever. Ari from the Slender Fungus Cycling Association has formed an alliance with me and we are already chatting back and forth concerning strategies and we are staying positive throughout. I have a ride with Tony set up to get me there and back, so I won't have to travel alone. I have a place to stay with my good friend MG, so I have his positive energy to draw from right before the event as well. The DK 200 folks have laid out where resupplies can be gotten, in terms of mileages, so I can be prepared to succeed.

Ari is riding his orange BMC. Maybe I should too.....
During the ride, Ari and I plan on sticking together, and perhaps we will add a few more to a group that will hopefully pull each other through to the end. This would be vastly different than any other DK 200 attempt I have ever done, since I have never had anyone that I could count on to ride with me at all. I've always ended up just being "on my own" out there at my previous DK attempts. (Keep in mind my last attempt was in 2010 when the event was far smaller as well.)

Added to the mix is the Dirty Dog Race Pack, which have offered to look out for me at the two checkpoints. That's very cool of them to do. So, all the extras have fallen into place for me, and much of this is all new stuff for me to rely on and look forward to. Logistically, I have everything I need in place to succeed.

Now it is up to me to get that "next level up" in fitness in a short amount of time. I feel that I need to get in at least one big, long ride to sort out a few things and get time in the saddle to help me get used to sitting on a bike for hours at a crack. I hope to get some rides in the heat to get acclimated, but that will all depend upon the weather. I know wind, and I am okay with that, but riding into some wind will be a welcome thing, as you generally have a long slog into the wind at the Dirty Kanza 200 at some point during the day.

All that and I am throwing another bike idea into the mix. More on that next time.......

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Fat Fargo: Thoughts On B+ Wheels

A Gen II Fargo with fatter wheels
As stated yesterday, I wanted to lay down some thoughts on the B+, 27.5+, 650B+ or whatever these are going to be called.....wheels. Let's say "mid-fat" and leave it at that, shall we?

For those of you that are not familiar, and to give those folks interested in specifications their dosage, here are the pertinent features of the mid-fat platforms and also my specs on this wheel set.
  • Mid-fat or "plus" sized wheels are really just larger than average tires with high volume on rims you already know and love. There are a few wider rims out now as well. 
  • Mid-fat tires can be fitted to the 650B/27.5 or 29"er based platforms. Rim specs in terms of diameter are the same- 622ISO for 29+ and 584ISO for B+/27.5+. Typically, the wider rims are better, so anything with a 30mm wide width or wider works best. Some are 50mm wide, like Surly's Rabbit Hole and Sun Ringle's Mulefut.
  • Tires are typically going to be either side of 3 inches wide with a lot of height/volume to the casings. 2.8" to 3.25" seems to be the working range so far. This is for both diameters out there that are being pushed- 27.5+/B+ and 29+.
  • Wide rims and fatter, higher volume tires make for big overall diameters. For instance, a 50mm wide rim with a 3.25" "B+" tire is the same diameter, more or less, as a 29" X 2.25" tire. A 29+ tire at 3 inches wide on a 50mm wide rim is approximately the same overall diameter as a 4.8" wide fat bike tire on a 100mm wide rim- 31 inches or so. 

Now for my Fargo wheels, I used 35mm wide Velocity Blunt 35 rims and put some 2.8" WTB Trailblazer tires on them tubeless. This brings the diameter of these wheels to just slightly less than a 29 X 2.2" wheel. That means my bottom bracket is ever so slightly lower. Otherwise, there was plenty of room in the frame to fit this wheel in my Fargo. Now.....why would you do this? That's the big question, and what I wanted to seek out was an answer that satisfied my curiosity. This may not be your answer, but I feel it makes a lot of sense.

The whole "plus" size/mid-fat thing is an attempt to take advantage of fat bike volume, flotation, and grip in a package that isn't so cumbersome, heavy, and that doesn't require weird frames with wide bottom brackets which hurt some folk's knees and whatnot. Are they "fat bikes"? That's a question folks debate. I own both fat bikes and this B+/mid-fat bike. My Fat Fargo is not a fat bike. Nope. Not even close.

But, it isn't like any of my 29"ers either. I have a 29 X 2.4" tired rig that runs 45mm wide Velocity Duallys. While the footprint of those wheels are as big as my mid-fat/B+ tires, they don't have the volume of those B+ tires, and there's where your differences are and why it may make sense to run a mid-fat/B+ rig for you.

The Singular Buzzard with 29 X 2.4" tires on Velocity Duallys
That volume allows for lower pressures without fear of rim strikes. Lower pressures mean the tires conform to terrain features better, which equals more grip and control. The differences are minute, to be sure, but palpable, and in the right rig, a B+/mid-fat set up may make a lot of sense. I thought it worked great on a single speed, for instance, where grip and the lack of suspension might be your set up. I also wanted to try this as a set up for a bikepacking rig or bagged hauler/tourer/versatile mtb set up. That's where the "Fat Fargo" comes in.

My thoughts were that my original Fargo Gen I was the perfect candidate for these wheels, since it wasn't suspension corrected, and a little comfort would be welcomed there. However; the tire clearances in the chain stays were too tight to allow for mud clearances, and I felt the bottom bracket on that bike with the B+ wheels was too low. Bummer that, but I wasn't going to quit just there.

I had the Gen II Fargo, so why not slap those meats into that frame and see what's up. Well, the clearances were really good, and the bottom bracket, while slightly lower for sure, isn't too low, for me. Maybe for you it would be, but so far, I've been just fine with things this way. Of course, the Gen II has a Rock Shox Reba on it and that combo is pluuuuuusssssh. The fork has 80mm of travel, but with the tires, it almost feels like my 140mm of travel on my Buzzard.

I wish this would've worked better.
I do have the rigid fork for the Gen II bike, and that will be the next thing I try, but for now, I have a brief list of "Good" and "Bad" things that I have found running these mid-fat wheels on my Fargo. This certainly isn't a list that is comprehensive or finished yet, but here you go....

Good: The ride is super smooth. The smaller bumps disappear, bigger jolts are mere annoyances, and curbs are swallowed with little to no lifting of the front end. Grip is amazing when the conditions are ripe. Stability at slow speed is enhanced. The smaller sized wheels are easier to spin up by a long shot over 29+, but they do not give you near the momentum carrying capacity of either 29+ or a straight up 29"er wheel. There is more float, and so these carry you into looser terrain a bit further than does the "normal" 29"er wheel and tire.

Bad: Weight. First and foremost, you have a heavier tire and wheel overall than you would a good quality trail wheel in a 29"er format fitted with a good 29"er tire. That means that a 29"er wheel is easier to get going and keep going than these mid-fat wheels, which is most apparent when speeds are higher on harder packed terrain. Rolling resistance- The way the tread hits the trail with these mid-fat wheels versus a 29"er tire is quite different. The WTB Trailblazer is a squared off, "all tread hits the trail" tire where a 29"er tire typically will not do that. Yes- the Trailblazer has a continuous center strip to help against this, and it works, but you will feel the "all the tread-all the time" rolling resistance and especially at lower pressures. Finally, that squared off profile and close tread block pattern makes the Trailblazer a drier conditions tire. Mud will send this tire skittering sideways. It also doesn't have a ton of side bite, but in drier conditions this is okay, in my opinion.

This single speed mid-fat set up is a blast to ride.
Conclusions So Far......

I will likely try the Fargo Gen II with the rigid fork, but in the end, I think I am pretty sure where this whole experiment is going to go. I've tried these wheels on four bikes now, and two of them were instantly inducing smiles, while the other two were head scratching conundrums and have not produced the "fun factor" the other two have. Interestingly, the two fun set ups have both been single speeds.

The lighter weight of a single speed bike overall can allow for heavier wheels and momentum, while not at the levels of a 29"er, are still pretty good with the mid-fat wheels. And we all know momentum is king with regard to single speeding. Add in the extra traction, a bit easier spin up than a 29+, and extra cush, and it all adds up when one gear is used. Why that hasn't translated to a geared hard tail set up has been baffling, but the differences in feel are like night and day to me.

The Industry is going to go "ga-ga" for these mid-fat wheels and I suppose with some quality rubber, it may be an okay deal for some. However; I am not seeing a super-wide ranging appeal here from my point of view. Ride a 29"er most of the time, and where conditions get sketchy, looser, and you want to push out your boundaries, go all in and ride a fat bike. There is one wheel that maybe will yet change my mind and that's the 29+ deal. I tried it on two different rigs. One was an amazing experience, and one was so-so, which leaves me at an inconclusive state where 29+ is concerned. I will be researching that more as time goes forward as well.

Stay tuned.......